ESCONDIDO — Escondido’s recently restructured Community Advisory Group on homelessness has resumed meetings after taking a pandemic break and the group said they are committed to addressing an issue that requires continual effort and collaboration.
The group was originally formed about 2 years ago, along with four other community advisory groups in Escondido. The main purpose of the group, according to city staff, is to act as a liaison between the community and city leadership.
“Codified boards and commissions… play a vital role in providing advice and recommendations to City staff and policymakers as well as fiscal oversight and decision making, where applicable. However, the inherent formality that exists with these Boards and Commissions can be a barrier to public engagement for a variety of reasons,” according to a statement by city staff.
“These advisory groups differ from boards and commissions in that they are temporary in nature, do not require a formal application and appointment process, are driven at a grassroots level by the community members involved and provide only advice and recommendations,” the statement continues.
Strategy for addressing homelessness
After having to restructure the group after a year of strict COVID-19 restrictions, community members, city staff and elected city officials have resumed meetings to discuss different aspects of the homelessness issue and how to address it.
“Our mission in the City of Escondido is to work with our partners to manage and reduce homelessness,” said group leaders. “We will be utilizing resources, multiple disciplines, and cross-departmental teamwork to address the specific needs of the diverse groups suffering from homelessness while minimizing negative community impacts.”
The advisory group follows Escondido’s Strategy for Addressing Homelessness & Transiency, which was last updated in February 2021. The document outlines resources and potential solutions when it comes to addressing homelessness.
This includes a section that dives into the cost of homelessness, which the group discussed in their last meeting back in October, as well as partnerships with organizations like Interfaith Community Services, Alpha Project and more.
The strategy also discusses resources for addressing homelessness like the police, the fire department, public policy, public works and more.
The group discusses aspects of this strategy and provides feedback to city staff, which could potentially lead to discussions with the Escondido City Council and, eventually, policy direction.
The next Homelessness Community Advisory Group meeting will be on Dec. 14. The group will discuss different local service provider options and support for those who are at risk of becoming homeless or already homeless.
According to a 2020 We All Count (Point-in-Time) report, Escondido’s homeless population is 447 individuals, an increase from 350 in 2019.
The annual point-in-time count, a one-night event that usually occurs in January, was not taken this year because of concerns about spreading the coronavirus.
Countywide, a Homeless Crisis Response System report from 2020 by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless found the number of first-time homeless people in the county increased from 2,326 in 2019 to 4,152 in 2020, a 79% jump. The previous year saw a 6% decrease from 2018.