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Interfaith Community Services operates Haven House, a 49-bed homeless shelter for men and women. File photo
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Haven House shelter left out of this year’s HUD funding

ESCONDIDO — Interfaith Community Services is not receiving HUD funding from the city for its Haven House homeless shelter for the first time in over a decade.

Each year, the city receives funding from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency to provide resources for housing, homelessness, prevention, and services for low-income households. Escondido is one of 10 cities in San Diego County eligible for HUD funding.

This year, Escondido received approximately $1.45 million from HUD for its Community Development Block Grant program, which helps fund the expansion of economic opportunities for low- to moderate-income residents, organizations that provide homeless resources and suitable housing opportunities.

The city also received $712,111 in HOME investment partnership program funds, which help increase access to affordable housing for low-income residents, and $91,079 in residual receipt payments from HOME-funded projects that are counted as program income.

According to Holly Nelson, housing and neighborhood services manager, the city’s CDBG funding has dropped by 7% since 2020.

The city must divide its CDBG funding to organizations applying for the grant program. Homeless services top the city’s CDBG priorities, which include supporting homeless shelters and other services, followed by basic needs such as access to water, food and shelter, recreational opportunities, neighborhood revitalization, economic development and public safety.

Haven House, North County’s first permanent, year-round homeless shelter for men and women, has received a portion of the city’s CDBG funds each year for more than a decade. However, this year, the shelter was not recommended for funding by city staff.

Applicants who were chosen for funding include $7,500 for Mama’s Kitchen, which delivers meals to the homes of people with chronic illness; $30,000 for Project Next, a new program in the Escondido school districts that provides one-on-one academic counseling and exposure to career opportunities to improve graduation rates; and $50,000 for the Alabaster Jar Project, which offers transitional housing for human trafficking survivors.

Several other organizations also received funding along with projects like the renovation of Washington Park Pool and lighting in Old Escondido, which received $197,237 and $425,00,0, respectively.

Several staff members and volunteers with Interfaith Community Services, which operates the 49-bed Haven House shelter at its 550 W. Washington Ave. location, spoke in support of Interfaith at the Aug. 9 council meeting when the City Council approved its HUD funding allocations.

“Homelessness is one of the biggest problems facing our community and the two organizations that are doing the most to address it are the city of Escondido and Interfaith,” said Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith. “We’re honored to have served this community for over 40 years, and for the last decade we have been fortunate to receive CDBG funding in support of our Haven House homeless shelter, the only shelter serving all individuals experiencing homelessness here in Escondido regardless of their situation.”

According to Anglea, Haven House helped stabilize 233 individuals last year, of which 170 were disabled.

“We’re not here to object to staff’s recommendations – we are here to ask and to request a stronger partnership,” Anglea said. “We are experts at addressing homelessness. Last year, our professional staff and volunteers ended homelessness for nearly 1,400 individuals.”

Holly Herring, program manager at Interfaith, recalled how she chose to be homeless as a teenager because her home life was unsafe. She later developed an addiction while she was homeless.

“Haven House was the only kind of shelter I would have been welcomed in,” she said. “The programs that Interfaith is creating and supporting in the community – they’re valuable to Escondido.”

Interfaith and similar organizations have been scrutinized for their Housing First approach, a low-barrier program that provides permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Local leaders like Supervisor Jim Desmond have asserted that the Housing First model has primarily contributed to the state’s rising homelessness rates and want to see the state and feds provide to organizations that require sobriety from clients. Only nonprofits and local governments using a Housing First model are eligible for state and federal grants.

Ultimately, the City Council approved its HUD funding allocations in a 4-1 vote.

Councilmember Consuelo Martinez explained she didn’t yet feel comfortable approving funding for the Alabaster Jar Project and wanted to hear more from LGBTQ organizations first.

A representative with Alabaster Jar Project explained that although its shelter provides housing to many individuals who identify within the LGBTQ spectrum, including transgender individuals, its shelter can only house clients with “female anatomy.” On the other hand, its resource center assists clients of all genders. The project would also like to expand its shelter options for all genders in the future.

In response to Anglea’s request, Martinez said she would also like to see a strengthened partnership between Interfaith and the city, noting that it goes both ways. She also stated that while Interfaith is vital to the community, many other organizations are helping people experiencing homelessness that deserve funding,g too.

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