By Cori Wilbur and Ed McFadd
San Diego maintains the fourth-largest homeless population in all of the United States.
When people envision a homeless person, they often conceptualize an individual who is dirty, disheveled, not all there, scary.
Albeit there are some homeless individuals who may fit this picture, for the most part, that’s a misconception.
In truth, there is no singular description that fits the bill and more often than not, a homeless person blends into the common middle class. Our Encinitas and North Coast Democratic Club invited the CEO of the Community Resource Center, John Van Cleef, to address the issues facing the homeless crisis in our region.
“[The coronavirus] exposed the tenuousness of a condition that cannot be sustained,” explained John Van Cleef, CEO of Community Resource Center (CRC). The concerns surrounding homelessness and the economic stresses we were all facing needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, it took a terrifying pandemic to expose flaws in societal infrastructures.
The coronavirus crisis did expose fatal weaknesses in healthcare systems and lit a fire to do more for our homeless population but more than that, the situation brought to the surface another underlying crisis that could no longer be ignored: life was unaffordable, untenable and uncertain overall.
One recent development in response is a safe parking lot, an area where those living out of their cars can safely park at night. Earlier this year, the city of Encinitas opened up its own safe parking lot, the first in North County, behind the Leichtag Foundation farming property. Of course, this establishment did not come without pushback from the community first.
“A lot of people who live in our communities are fully leveraged and they know they’re living one paycheck away from financial disaster,” Van Cleef pointed out. In areas such as Encinitas, many within that community are so opposed to ideas like safe parking because they do not want to be faced with the reality that they could be living out of their cars in no time. Self-reflection is particularly frightening during a time that feels like we are living in a bad dream.
During this current health critical point, Van Cleef, CRC and others are working overtime in “a concentrated effort to ensure we are looking after the homeless and protecting them from the coronavirus crisis.” One solution offered is hotels for the unsheltered who are asymptomatic. Those who are symptomatic are offered separate hotels.
Recent details show around 300 high-risk homeless individuals have been placed into established hotel rooms. The CRC and Interfaith Community Services, (ICS), Regional Task Force on the Homeless, San Diego Health Department, San Diego County and others have joined forces to navigate protection for the unprotected through this time.
Van Cleef pointed out a third area of concentration, the need for rapid rehousing for those escaping domestic abuse, another leading indicator for the homeless population. With the new stay at home orders, abusers are now more stressed and the abused more isolated.
Since the upsurge of coronavirus cases, CRC faced an increase in domestic abuse calls, something he said the organization sadly anticipated. The CRC wants to make sure individuals in this predicament know there are resources out there available and ways out of the abuse, even during a pandemic.
If you find yourself in a situation where you do need support, CRC, Interfaith Community Services and other organizations offer a plethora of options for aid.
More information about Van Cleef and CRC can be found at https://crcncc.org/mission-history/; Greg Anglea is the CEO of ICS, more information about him can be found at https://www.interfaithservices.org/our-team/.
Ed McFadd is the co-chair of the Encinitas and North Coast Democratic Club, which supports the values and principles of the Democratic Party.
Cori Wilbur is a freelance writer.
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