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More and more Carlsbad residents are becoming homeless, or are vulnerable to homelessness. These are our friends, our neighbors, our students and our grandparents. We need to tackle this crisis head on by declaring an emergency shelter crisis. By declaring a shelter emergency, Carlsbad will be able to rapidly move forward with two important items: increasing the number of shelter beds and implementing a safe parking program.
Carlsbad has made far more progress on homelessness than many other cities. We implemented the first homeless response plan of its kind in the county, managed by a licensed social worker. We increased the number of staff on our homeless outreach team in 2019, and we hired a housing navigator. Through these programs, Carlsbad has assisted dozens of unsheltered Carlsbad residents into temporary and permanent housing, drug treatment facilities and mental health care centers. Yet we have only 59 shelter beds restricted to single men in our city, compared with a population of approximately 161 diverse individuals experiencing homelessness in Carlsbad.
In late January, while out performing the annual point-in-time count, I had multiple conversations with folks experiencing homelessness in Carlsbad for different reasons. Many were Carlsbad High School graduates, and many were living in their vehicles. One woman shared with me how the cost of unforeseen medical emergencies had driven her out of her home and into her current situation living in her car.
A 2018 9th Circuit ruling has been interpreted to require that all jurisdictions (e.g., cities) have a 1-to-1 ratio of shelter beds to unsheltered individuals in order to enforce certain public health and safety laws. Additionally, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently issued an executive order requiring a wide variety of agencies, including cities, “to examine their ability to provide shelter and house homeless individuals on a short-term emergency basis.”
We need to increase the number of safe shelter beds we currently have here in Carlsbad, near the police and firefighters headquarters, and include women and families.
In addition to ensuring we have enough shelter beds for every unhoused individual for public health and safety reasons and for the safety of the unsheltered individuals themselves, we need to implement a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Safe Parking Program with on-site housing placement and social services, at the city-owned Farmer’s Building off of Faraday. This will assist those, like the woman I spoke with in the pre-dawn hours in January, to connect with the services they need before becoming completely unsheltered in Carlsbad.
We need to help our community members find the services they need, including making sure that every single Carlsbad resident has a bed to sleep in at night. We need to continue leading on this issue with compassion and care, while taking swift action.
Cori Schumacher is an at-large member of the Carlsbad City Council.