EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated from its original version.
OCEANSIDE — In mid-April, more than three dozen individuals residing in an encampment were moved into a hotel as part of the city’s homeless voucher program.
Three weeks later, a handful of those individuals are back on the streets.
On April 13, the city cleaned up the encampment on South Oceanside Boulevard, forcing its residents and their belongings out of tents. That same day, 28 individuals were moved to the Marty Valley Inn where the city set aside a total of 30 rooms to temporarily house them. The remaining nine individuals later joined them.
Rodney McGough, who founded the encampment as a “trauma-informed safe center” to help stabilize people living on the streets and allow them to come back to their senses, was one of the first group of individuals to be moved into the motel.
After 21 days, McGough and six others were given a notice to leave the motel by May 4. McGough was incredibly upset.
“He cried for an hour when he received this eviction notice,” his sister Candice McGough wrote in a letter addressed to Mayor Esther Sanchez on May 5.
In the letter, McGough claimed that City Council had “abandoned all the plans for helping (Rodney) to complete his mission, providing a safe place for the homeless to reside.”
According to Assistant City Manager Michael Gossman, the seven individuals who were removed last week were evicted because they weren’t “making progress on their housing plan” or were caught violating program rules.
“‘Progress toward housing plan’ means they are proactively working with the service providers, accepting referrals to services, or accepting offers of housing,” Gossman said via email.
Gossman said the seven individuals who were removed included three people who were matched with an alternative housing option but turned it down, and the other four individuals would not engage with onsite service providers throughout their stay in the program. He could not speak specifically on McGough’s or any other individual’s case.
Nicholas A., who was one of the seven evicted, said he was provided coins for laundry but nothing else in terms of an exit process. Someone who worked for the program had assessed he was eligible for services at the county’s Mental Health Systems, but was only told to seek services there rather than having anything set up for him.
Nicholas planned to sleep on the streets until he could get into the San Diego Rescue Mission.
There were eight other individuals whose stay in the 21-day voucher program expired the same day, but they received another voucher for actively working on their housing plans.
An additional eight individuals have also been placed in long-term shelter or treatment facilities.
As beds become available, the Oceanside Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) refers new clients to start a 21-day voucher. Gossman said HOT could also refer the same people who were evicted from the program, like McGough, back into the program with a renewed 21-day voucher if they opt to start their housing plans.
Recently, the Marty Valley Inn that hosts the program at its location in Oceanside Industrial Park has come under new ownership, and the new owners are seeking to turn the motel into an apartment complex.
Currently, such a conversion to an apartment is not allowed according to the parcel’s existing zoning. The property owner would need to amend the property’s zoning, which would involve a public hearing process lasting several months.
Even though the property owner has started advertising the property as Vista Blue Apartments, including installing signage, the so-called apartments are still considered motel units according to the Planning Department.
“If it became necessary, we would find alternative facilities,” Gossman said. “We can’t speak on individuals but we can say that we are working with clients even after they have been exited.”
A total of 52 participants have gone through the city’s motel voucher program. There are currently 28 individuals enrolled in the program.