Some homeless residents who received vouchers from the city of Encinitas stayed at an EconoLodge in April. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

On April 29, the Voice of San Diego published an article highlighting the release of Encinitas unsheltered homeless from temporary sheltering in hotels. Though it is accurate that individuals are being released from temporary sheltering in motels, the article contains inaccurate paraphrasing, factual errors and the omission of important information I shared with the reporter that provides context surrounding this situation. I hope the following provides clarity to the fact that Community Resource Center remains committed to serving our community’s homeless during, through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic in alignment with our mission of creating paths to safety, stability and self-sufficiency.

Foremost, the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the vulnerability of our unsheltered homeless, and the moral responsibility we have to provide supportive services for and care to these individuals. Unfortunately, the long-term availability of shelter beds and affordable housing did not increase since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter in place order on March 20; and there presently is not a permanent emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness in Encinitas. As a result, a majority of people who were experiencing homelessness before the shelter in place order – in Encinitas, San Diego County and the state of California – will likely experience homelessness when it ends. This difficult reality drives Community Resource Center’s ongoing response to and advocacy for long-term solutions for our community, county and state’s homeless crisis.

Specifically:

  • Providing hotel rooms for our community’s unsheltered homeless during COVID-19 was/is a temporary sheltering option. Participants in the program were notified of this from its inception, received weekly follow-up from Community Resource Center case management staff, were offered supportive service, and provided a one-week notice before this temporary intervention ended.
  • The article articulated statements about my thoughts and beliefs, and the programmatic strategy of Community Resource Center. The editorial paraphrasing is inaccurate. CRC does not object “on principle” to housing people in hotel rooms. What we “think” did not motivate the release of unsheltered homeless from hotels. In fact, what we think and value motivated our petition to the city of Encinitas to support the temporary sheltering of people experiencing homelessness in hotels.
  • Two factors necessitated the release of people from temporary shelter in hotels:
    1) The California state law that defines an individual as a tenant (vs. resident/guest) after 30 days’ room occupancy, and 2) The inability of the city of Encinitas and/or Community Resource Center to indefinitely sustain this temporary shelter option – especially in the absence of financial support from county, state and federal resources.
  • In order to provide objective criteria for the continued placement of people in hotels, the city of Encinitas and Community Resource Center adopted federal, state and county guidelines for providing temporary hotel shelter for asymptomatic homeless who are most vulnerable to COVID-19: people who are 65+ and/or who have certain underlying health conditions (respiratory, compromised immunities, chronic disease).
  • Community Resource Center is taking a short-, mid- and long-term view of providing assistance to people who have been economically impacted by COVID-19. Forecasts indicate the economic recovery from COVID-19 will last between 18 months and four years. So in addition to directing resources to immediate needs for those experiencing homelessness, we are looking at long-term needs people will have – like rent assistance that will prevent people from becoming homeless.
  • Food distributed by Community Resource Center is compliant with standards established for food banks/pantries by the USDA and county; which are locally met and/or exceeded by standards established and monitored by public and private entities. Sell-by dates are often not expiration dates. Furthermore, the county’s Department of Environmental Health, Food and Housing Division routinely conducts inspections of Community Resource Center’s Food and Nutrition Pantry and issues a Health permit which is current for 2020 and posted, as required in the pantry.

Perhaps the most significant omission from the article is the inspiring news that while temporarily sheltered in a hotel, and with the support of Community Resource Center’s staff and resources, three households began their journey away from homelessness to permanent housing. Beyond COVID-19, Community Resource Center assists unsheltered individuals and those who are at risk of becoming homeless with housing, employment resources, food, rental assistance, financial education and individualized support. In 2019, 273 individuals found safe housing through Community Resource Center’s intervention programs, including our domestic violence shelter and transitional units.

John Van Cleef is CEO of Community Resource Center.

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