By Garvin Walsh
As reported earlier this week by The Coast News, the latest data on Homelessness in San Diego County show that the homeless population in the county has grown more than 10% during the past two years.
The data also reveal that, within the region, the experience of the numerous localities surveyed has varied widely.
As shown in the accompanying table, Encinitas was a distinct outlier, up 74% compared to the average of only 14.6% among other nearby communities. The comparison is stark.
Cities 2020 2022 %Change
Encinitas 65 113 73.8%
Carlsbad 148 118 -20.3%
Oceanside 408 514 26.0%
San Marcos 8 12 50.0%
Vista 100 117 17.0%
Total 729 874 19.9%
Total (- Enc) 664 761 14.6%
SD County 7,638 8,427 10.3%
Source: SD Regional Task Force on Homelessness
Another noteworthy result was Carlsbad, which enjoyed a 20% homeless decline.
It’s very likely that policy changes in Carlsbad account for that reduction. During the past year Carlsbad has taken steps to be less accommodating to transients — new ordinances have been enacted to inhibit anti-social behavior, and enforcement of local laws, by a police force subject to the control of elected officials, has also been a deterrent.
In contrast, Encinitas’ homeless policy is embodied in the Homeless Action Plan (HAP) enacted in early 2021.
Without belaboring an analysis of that plan and ignoring its dubious origins, suffice to say that the city’s approach has been to support nonprofit efforts that aid the homeless population, including the provision of a small quantum of temporary housing.
It is not far wrong to conclude that the HAP serves to maintain the homeless population in its present misery.
It allows Mayor Blakespear and her City Council to check the “do something” box, but it will not provide any relief from the problem.
Notably, the HAP does not substantively address either of the two major pathologies associated with homelessness: drug abuse and mental illness.
The entirety of its action recommendation in this regard is this: “The City must actively engage the County in providing services for persons with severe mental illness, substance use disorders, and other behavioral health resources, as these are provided by the County Health Department.” (HAP, p. 21).
In the 15 months since the passage of the plan, no practical steps have been taken to pursue that recommendation, reinforcing the view that the plan is nothing more than window dressing.
Perhaps the important aspect of the homeless problem is its likely association with crime.
Almost exactly one year ago The Coast News featured a commentary from Encinitas resident (and now City Council candidate) Julie Thunder, in which a 2020 surge in local crime was reported.
Crime increased 55%, compared to 1% for the wider region. The author suggested that the apparent increase in homelessness may have been a driver behind the rising incidence of crime.
Similarly, the same question was raised by others on social media, such as Facebook and NextDoor. Indeed, the animating feature of “Encinitas Watchdog,” a Facebook page established by local resident Jeff Morris (now a candidate for mayor of Encinitas), has been an ongoing examination of the link between homelessness and crime.
Now we have more evidence of a continuing crime surge in Encinitas. As reported here Encinitas in 2021 saw crime increase 31%, compared to 9% in San Diego County.
This latest piece of the puzzle seems to confirm the anecdotal evidence: homelessness in Encinitas is up sharply.
Beyond dispute, rising homelessness and crime are positively and contemporaneously correlated. It’s true, correlation is not causation, but it’s time for our common sense instincts to turn to a policy of deterrence and constructive engagement.
The City of Encinitas should abandon the policy of lip service embodied in its Homeless Action Plan.
Garvin Walsh is a resident of Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
Catherine Blakespear and the entire City Council have been an unmitigated disaster for Encinitas.
Blakespear would spread her misguided policies Statewide should she be elected to the State Senate.
It’s time to clean house in Encinitas and vote for either Democrat Joe Kerr or Republican Matt Gunderson for State Senate, both far superior choices to Blakespear.