The Coast News Group

O’side approves emergency winter shelters

OCEANSIDE — The City Council gave the OK for emergency winter shelters to operate without a conditional use permit on Nov. 16, just in time for shelters to open their doors in December.

Emergency winter shelters provide a warm bed, a hot meal and a path to permanent housing.

They are open from December through about mid-April, and do not require a city conditional use permit due to their short-term operations.

The city contracts with Interfaith Community Services to oversee winter shelters and funds $50,000 a year to support shelter services.

Two years ago, Oceanside added a requirement that shelter operators must be members of the Alliance for Regional Solutions, and operate under their umbrella.

This ensures case management of clients, data entry into the regional HMIS system, and serves the end goal of clients finding permanent housing.

“Our goal is to get these folks into permanent housing once the shelters are closed,” Margery Pierce, city neighborhood services director, said.

Health and safety standards are also ensured.

Before shelters open, a fire inspector conducts a site visit to verify there are no fire hazards.

Shelter staff is required to have mental health and first aid training in order to handle situations that may arise.

The city also established a no service area around a church that received complaints for its shelter operations. The church, located north of Wisconsin Street and west of Interstate 5, can no longer provide shelter.

“The city could not support the church running a shelter, they did not have the proper rules in place and were not good neighbors,” Pierce said.

The need for temporary housing is great.

The 2016 San Diego Task Force on the Homeless Point in Time Count reported 667  homeless individuals in Oceanside, 392 of which were unsheltered. Most of the unsheltered individuals live in a cars, trucks or vans. Some have no shelter.

All cities face the problem of homelessness.

According to San Diego Task Force counts Carlsbad has 108 homeless individuals, San Marcos has 99, and Encinitas has 93.

The region is working to find solutions.

Pierce said Oceanside needs year-round temporary bridge housing to help people transition, get back on their feet, and move into permanent housing.

“Having these services in place in advance is critical to the success of a homeless person remaining in their unit once housed,” Pierce said.

Emergency winter shelters open Dec. 1.