ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council last week discussed updates to the city’s Homeless Action Plan, such as identifying new funding opportunities, expanding services, and promoting regional and community partnerships, while some residents expressed concerns over costs and a lack of accurate homeless data.
According to staff, the city’s plan has assisted 589 people experiencing homelessness since its adoption in February 2021.
Since then, the city has expanded its participation with the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, integrating all city agencies, faith-based organizations, and economic partners, including Mainstreet 101s and the Chamber of Commerce, businesses, and other city groups as part of a city-based working group.
The city also provided an update on the Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) grant, which provides a maximum of $665,494 in state funding for additional services to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. On April 11, the grant’s first allocation was awarded.
Further, the city has also allocated funds to expand outreach efforts with a social service caseworker through a contract with the McAlister Institute, an organization that provides alcohol and substance abuse treatment for unhoused individuals.
The case manager was funded by COVID-19 relief funds tied to the federal Community Development Block Grant program. With federal funding, 291 individuals were served from November 2021 through February 2023.
Along with the McAlister Institute, the city has created and launched the Homeless Outreach Program for Empowerment. The HOPE program was launched in Encinitas as a collaborative pilot program between the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, the Sheriff’s Department COPPS (Community Policing and Problem-Solving Unit), mental health providers, and other service providers.
The program’s objective is to contact persons experiencing homelessness in Encinitas and connect them with various resources and services to help them find permanent housing.
At a previous City Council Meeting on March 3, the council discussed and authorized the fiscal year 2023-24 budget for Community Development Block Grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program aims to benefit low and moderate-income households, prevent neighborhood blight and slums, and occasionally provide aid for emergency needs like natural disaster response.
This year the city received $313,360 in grants. Four nonprofit public service providers applied to receive funding: Community Resource Center, Meals-on-Wheels, Interfaith Community Services and Legal Aid Society of San Diego.
Community Resource Center wanted $30,000 for its Homeless Prevention and Intervention Services program. The program offers various services, including financial literacy, employment preparation, food assistance, supportive shelter, and case management for low-income and periodically homeless families.
The program also offers motel vouchers to provide shelter for episodically homeless (in and out of homelessness) Encinitas families and case management to ensure a successful transition to more permanent housing. The goal is to serve at least 515 households citywide.
The city allocated $22,000 in block grant funds to CRC but agreed to fill the nearly $8,000 gap from the general fund.
Interfaith Community Services requested $20,000 for the Bridge to Housing Network program to provide homeless households shelter and tools to move towards self-sufficiency. The Bridge to Housing Network operates three permanent shelters — La Posada (Carlsbad), Haven House (Escondido), and Operate HOPE (Vista) — and two rotational shelters.
The Bridge to Housing Network program’s goal is to serve at least 30 Encinitas homeless households at those shelters.
During public comment, 12 residents spoke before the council, many of them saying they believe this plan should be halted until there is time to hold a citywide town hall meeting for more public involvement.
Many residents also echoed that since there is no accurate Point-in-Time Count out on the city’s homeless population, there is no accurate data to make sound decisions. According to council members, new data will not be out until May or June.
“This draft is incomplete and premature. Why,” said Steve Gerken of Encinitas. “No new data on homelessness has been provided since 2021, even though 2022 counts are available, and 2023 data is available in just a few weeks. Why aren’t we using the only reliable information source available to us?”
“There are actionable items, but there’s no budget. There’s no analysis of this year’s multi-year financial impacts… Draft plans call for building infrastructure to meet needs, but homelessness in Encinitas has been declining for the past four years, according to available data. So, what’s the demand and what budget to be forecasting for?”
Elena Thompson, an Encinitas resident, has shown up to every City Council meeting with the Homeless Action Plan on the agenda, speaking on multiple occasions about the financial aspect of the plan.
“We talked about the number of 589 people in two years being helped, and I think that’s commendable that they were helped, and I hope they’re really doing much better,” Thompson said. “But 589 people over two years is 24 people a month. We’re in a city of 63,000 people. I’d like to see you helping all the residents of Encinitas as your priority.”
“I think it’s a good idea to continue with the community conversation, and I’m grateful to be a part of it. I think we need to reevaluate the HAP recommended goals and actions because how can we have goals and actions when we don’t even know how many homeless we have? We have to have the Point-in-Time numbers before we can proceed.”
“The regional solutions are really the way to go. We can take these people in Encinitas to shelter beds in other places. We can take them to Carlsbad; we know that Carlsbad is now expanding its homeless shelter, La Posada. Vista is expanding its shelter beds, as is Escondido. This is our North County regional partnership already, so we don’t need to take on all these and recreate what’s already there.”
After public comments, the council again had time to ask questions and respond to remarks.
“It’s a constant issue; it never stops. Every day somebody ends up on the street for some reason or another, so it’s something that never ends,” Mayor Tony Kranz said in response to public comments. “You say we can’t afford it, and I say we can’t afford not to do this.”
The HAP plan has multiple next steps, including a North County City Collaborative, which may address some of the residents’ hopes of connecting to county resources. There is also a drive to partner with Scripps Hospital and Village Square Healthcare Center to designate basic needs and have homeless outreach assessments for the senior population.