ESCONDIDO — Some of the former residents of an El Norte property face homelessness and housing insecurity after being evicted from the premises earlier this month.
Several residents who lived in a house and a few trailers on a property at 2130 W. El Norte Parkway in Escondido were ordered to move out in the early morning hours of July 6.
While labeled as “squatters” by neighbors and news outlets, the residents had received permission from the previous owners to live there.
The owner Robert E. Donelson died in 2019. Later, the plan was for his stepdaughter Terry Bearer and the other property residents to pool money to buy the property together. Still, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) purchased the property after it fell into foreclosure in September 2021.
In May, a court ruled in favor of HUD in an unlawful detainer case, allowing the agency to evict the residents from the property.
HUD is responsible for national policy and programs addressing the country’s housing needs. The agency provides cities with grant funding for affordable housing, homeless resources and economic opportunities.
At the same time, the city of Escondido sued the residents for turning the property into a “public nuisance.” The lawsuit cited large amounts of “trash, junk, debris, inoperable vehicles” and tenants living in RVs connected to public utilities on the property, all of which are against city code. Residents wanted to appeal the case but were unable to do so.
Although some neighbors have complained about the property, surrounded by growingly dense residential development, others weren’t bothered.
Ryleigh Sims, a neighbor who bought her house last year, said the property never affected her property values. While she understands that HUD had a legal right to evict the residents, that “doesn’t make it moral.”
“I don’t feel the property is a nuisance or the (former residents),” Sims said in an email. “I don’t really notice them.”
Residents were also threatened to vacate the property last month when their water was shut off. Though they had money to pay the bill, the Vista Irrigation District wouldn’t turn the water back on without HUD’s permission, which the residents never received.
Organizers from a local chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation had brought the residents water in large jugs over the last month.
Juliana Musheyev, one of the organizers, has kept in close contact with at least three of the property’s former residents. So far, one of them has been able to find a place to hook up her trailer, while another had to park her trailer near her work, which is against city code and has already gained her several visits from police and code enforcement.
Some former residents hoped Interfaith Community Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping homeless individuals, could prevent them from returning to the street, but high demand has made it difficult.
“We provide a lot of services, including shelter and housing, but the bad news is all of those shelters are full with minimal resources that frankly don’t keep up with the demand now,” said Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith. “We’ve seen a more than 50% increase in family homelessness regionally.”
North San Diego County needs more homeless shelters, according to Anglea.
“There’s a big misconception or lack of understanding from people in the community who think if someone is homeless and wants to get help, they could just agree to go to a shelter,” Anglea said. “While that may be true in the city of San Diego, which has 2,000 shelter beds, there are only 99 brick-and-mortar shelter beds for more than 1,400 people experiencing homelessness in one night in North San Diego County.”
While the city of Oceanside prepares to open its new 50-bed shelter and the city of Vista intends to launch a safe, overnight parking program, far more resources are needed to help shelter homeless individuals and families.
“We need shelters in all our communities experiencing homelessness,” Anglea said.
Interfaith has been operating a temporary shelter through a motel since last August using COVID relief funds. That program has so far serviced 250 people with five babies born to families in the shelter since it opened. Interfaith is currently renovating a location on North Ash Street for a permanent shelter.
“We operate low barrier shelters that are trauma-informed,” Anglea said. “We meet individuals wherever they are and help them get stabilized.”
But many of the residents who were evicted earlier this month feel as though they were kicked out without the city giving any substantial assistance.