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Each year, volunteers across the county gather to survey the homeless population, and this year’s point-in-time count shows that the overall number in North County increased by about 65 people.

The survey also shows a decrease in the number of sheltered people, and increases in the unsheltered population – meaning more people are sleeping on benches, in vehicles, or in hand-built structures along highways and river beds.

Most cities across North County saw increases in the overall numbers of homeless people, including Carlsbad (52), Encinitas (24), Del Mar (2), Vista (106) and San Marcos (12). Only Escondido, Oceanside and Solana Beach reported declines, of 9, 136 and four people, respectively.

VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt noted that there’s a shelter problem at work across San Diego County: “Many folks living on the street – particularly those who have been there for years – are choosing to stay in tents and makeshift structures instead of shelters.”

While Vista saw a slight drop in the number of sheltered people, the city saw a huge increase in its unsheltered population. Last year, Vista counted 64 people without shelter – this year, it counted 206 people.

Escondido and Oceanside, which posted overall drops, saw decreases of 38 and 105 sheltered people, even while Oceanside counted nearly twice as many tents as last year (100), and 58 more vehicles with people sleeping in them.

Some cities have shelters that are open all year, but Oceanside isn’t one of them. Oceanside has a homeless outreach team in its Police Department, and one of the two officers on the team told KPBS that when the shelters close, they see that increase on the streets.

“Our winter shelter in town is closed now, so that’s 50 people who (were) off the street and had a roof over their head at night — and many of those were receiving services and food and are now on the street,” officer Lonny Harper said.

Escondido: North County’s Sanctuary City?

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions toured the border in San Diego recently, he noted cities like Escondido that limit their cooperation with immigration authorities put their public’s safety at risk.

As the AP noted, he couldn’t have picked a worse example to make his point. Escondido is a poster child for local cooperation with federal immigration authorities –  in fact, just a few years ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement touted Escondido as having helped detain 800 people over two years.

Escondido has been nicknamed “Little Arizona” for its harsh crackdowns on immigrants, a reference to California’s neighboring state that has passed a slew of anti-immigrant legislation over the last decade or so.

In 2010, the city entered into an agreement with ICE to participate in Operation Joint Effort, where the agencies pool resources “to identify and arrest criminal aliens, fugitive aliens and aliens who have illegally returned to the United States after having been removed,” according to a 2012 ICE press release.

In the release, ICE recounts the arrest of an alleged child molester – apparently resulting from a traffic stop – to make its point about how crucial Escondido’s participation was.

That cooperative effort also landed the city in a bit of hot water that year, when KPBS found that the city was checking immigration status at DUI checkpoints, and the city and tow companies were profiting, bigly, off the impounded cars. For every drunk driver they nabbed, police arrested about 10 unlicensed drivers, most of whom were undocumented immigrants.

Vista Debuts Draft District Maps

Vista released two draft maps of City Council districts, both of which grapple with how to divide up the neighborhoods north of SR-78.

Of the two versions, both create one district that would have a Latino majority, comprising just over 50 percent of the citizen voting age population.

The city is tasked with creating four districts in the face of a lawsuit challenging its election process, and has already held two public hearings to discuss switching to by-district voting. Vista also has to hold two public hearings to discuss the maps, ahead of which the city has launched a website to gather the public’s feedback, where residents and non-resident map nerds can view the drafts.

City Clerk Kathy Valdez said the city is holding three community meetings at different locations, this weekend. The first official public hearing will be at 9 a.m. on Saturday, at Civic Center (the second one has not yet been scheduled, but will happen in next month).

Vista will also hold two other meetings on Saturday, one of which will have a Spanish translator and be held in the Latino-majority neighborhood, at the Linda Rhoades Neighborhood Center off North Santa Fe Drive.

Also in the News

 Vista previewed its medical marijuana rules, which would allow up to two dispensaries, whose operators are approved by the city, and haven’t previously opened an unlicensed operation. (Union-Tribune)

• Voice’s Sara Libby reports about comments Reps. Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter made about the proposed border wall at a Chamber of Commerce panel. Libby also got some comments on President Trump’s taxes, Hunter’s campaign finance scandal (and this) and health care reform.

 Vista closed it’s “mixed-use loophole,” in part, choosing to leave its more urban design standards in place along North Santa Fe Drive. (The Coast News)

• Issa won’t say whether he would want Trump to campaign with him. (The Hill)

• Palomar Airport will resume commercial flights to Los Angeles. (KPBS)

Ruarri Serpa

Ruarri Serpa is a freelance writer in Oceanside. Email him at ruarris@gmail.com and find him on Twitter at @RuarriS.

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