The prevailing wisdom at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is that barriers, like promises that homeless clients stay sober while accessing services, deter people from seeking help.
HUD also believes its money is best spent in coordinated efforts, like the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, which provides a network that matches clients with the proper services.
Homeless advocates see coordination as crucial for addressing the homeless crisis, but Vista-based Solutions for Change sees it as a threat, Voice’s Lisa Halverstadt writes.
Halverstadt reports that the organization has created its own model for housing the homeless, and helped hundreds of families over the years, while receiving federal grants. That came to an end in 2012, though, when HUD began discouraging sobriety pledges and required regional coordination of services.
Solutions for Change works by choosing its clients to live in permanent housing, and work on the organization’s aquaponics farm and who make promises to stay sober. They have a farm and permanent housing in Vista, and two new housing projects are under way in Escondido and downtown Oceanside. That’s set up a showdown when it comes to the new coordinated regional system: “Solutions for Change wants to continue to pick and choose its own clients. It doesn’t want homeless service workers elsewhere in San Diego to assign clients it doesn’t believe are ideal for its program,” Halverstadt writes.
In January, Oceanside entered into an agreement with Solutions for Change to use 25 Section 8 vouchers at the project, which is expected to open next year. The vouchers will cover most of the rent for one- and two-bedroom units, which are expected to cost $1,569 and $2,050.
Oceanside’s Neighborhood Services Director Margery Pierce said agreements to use Section 8 vouchers at project-based housing, like Solutions for Change, are not affected by the HUD rules that stopped Solutions for Change from seeking federal grants.
Housing authorities can dedicate up to 20 percent of their vouchers for project-based housing. Oceanside administers about 1,600 vouchers, and has already has 25 vouchers dedicated to clients with HIV/AIDS.
The city’s Section 8 vouchers are fully leased, despite a housing vacancy rate below 2 percent.
“If you can stay in place, that’s your best bet to stay where you’re at,” Pierce tells clients.
But she also agrees that not every provider should be forced to take in clients that may harm the success of others.
“Personally, I think there are some valid concerns by Solutions for Change,” she said. It could be a problem to take a family, who may have suffered through a parent with addiction issues, and give them a neighbor who is addicted, she said.
But, as Halverstadt noted, “the region’s coordinated entry system has baked various agencies’ eligibility criteria into its placements – and nonprofits have an option to reject clients if there’s an issue.”
A Tangled Housing Web in Encinitas
One of the lawsuits launched by a group of residents over development and the state’s density bonus law was decided in favor of the city and a developer last month.
The lawsuit was filed by Encinitas Residents Alliance, an informal group of residents concerned about nine homes – one of which was granted under the density bonus rules – going into a 2.25-acre lot. They argued the city essentially gave up its land use authority when it settled an earlier lawsuit with the Building Industry Association over density bonus calculations.
This week, ERA put out a call on Facebook to raise money to appeal the court’s decision, which highlighted a potential problem: one of the people sponsoring a lawsuit against the city over a development policy, also sits on a City Council subcommittee charged with crafting Encinitas’ affordable housing plan.
In the Facebook post, ERA says a registered nonprofit, North County Advocates, will collect money for the residents and match what’s raised, dollar for dollar.
The group’s website is scant on basic information for 501(c)(3)s, but its most recently available income filings from 2015 identify Bruce Ehlers as its vice president.
Ehlers is also known for leading the charge for Proposition A, a slow-growth measure passed in 2013, and against Measure T, the city’s attempt to adopt a housing element in 2016.
He is now part of the four-member City Council subcommittee tasked with crafting Encinitas’ affordable housing policy. Rounding out the subcommittee is Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Councilman Tony Kranz and Kurt Groseclose, who argued for voters to adopt Measure T last year.
Density bonus is one of the issues at the heart of the Encinitas Residents Alliance lawsuit against the city. It’s a tool for developing affordable housing, but residents don’t like it because it allows developers to build bigger projects. Cities can’t rely on it when developing its affordable housing policies, as we found when we fact-checked one of Ehlers’ claims last year.
I reached out to Ehlers and Blakespear to find out if there was a problem with a subcommittee member also financing a lawsuit against the city over policies that could affect the subcommittee’s work. I didn’t receive a response from Ehlers or Blakespear in time.
Not a Good Media Week for Issa
Images of Rep. Darrell Issa standing on the roof of his Vista office, looking out on protesters, ricocheted around the Internet and the airwaves Tuesday.
Perhaps the most widely circulated image was captured by one of Issa’s Democratic challengers, attorney Mike Levin, who attended the weekly rally.
Issa then phoned Union-Tribune reporter Joshua Stewart to give his side of the story, but called Stewart a Democratic “operative” before hanging up on him.
Earlier this week, Stewart was the first to report that Issa sent out a promo code to a small group in Orange County, to allow them to register for the upcoming town hall meeting before registration was open to the public.
Issa’s spokesman said the promo codes were sent to older people who didn’t have a chance to register online for the town hall meeting in March, but Stewart pointed out that the area where the postcards were sent (and where the town hall will be held) is an Issa stronghold.
• In other Issa news, the congressman is also appealing a court decision forcing him to pay his 2016 challenger, Democrat Doug Applegate, $140,000. Issa tried to sue Applegate for defamation, but the court found Issa’s suit violated Applegate’s free speech rights. Applegate is also challenging Issa in 2018.
Also in the News
• Three cities held meetings to consider city council districts. After its fifth meeting, Vista has produced 18 maps, where Oceanside has two. Carlsbad held its first of at least four hearings on Tuesday. (KPBS)
• Escondido settled a lawsuit over its denial of a permit to operate a detainment facility for undocumented immigrant children. (Union-Tribune)
• The Del Mar Fair Board halted a planned medical marijuana expo. (Union-Tribune)
• The Coastal Commission pushed a public hearing on San Onofre back until August, the next time the commission meets in Southern California. (Union-Tribune)