“What ever happened to …” These topics were once front page news, but have since slipped out of the spotlight. So we’re checking back in. Read more stories in our series here.
The county’s recent annual homeless census revealed that the number of families experiencing homelessness in San Diego County increased 56 percent since 2020.
Nonprofit Interfaith Community Services has been planning to open a permanent, brick-and-mortar family homeless shelter in Escondido for almost two years, aiming to meet a need that they believe is severely overlooked in North County.
Interfaith CEO Greg Anglea said the group is now a few months away from accepting unsheltered families into the new, permanent program.
The upcoming shelter will operate out of the Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center in Escondido. Renovations on the building are nearly complete.
Once renovations are done, though, the nonprofit will use the space to operate its recuperative care program while renovations at its current location, the Abraham and Lillian Turk Recuperative Care Center, are completed. The recuperative care program serves homeless people who are discharged from hospitals and still have some recovering to do.
Anglea told Voice of San Diego the renovations for the recuperative care center are expected to be completed in October. Then, the new family resource center will move into the building renovated to house it. Interfaith expects to begin accepting families into the new permanent family shelter in December.
In the meantime, the organization has been operating a temporary family shelter out of a hotel in Escondido that is not owned by Interfaith. The shelter has served more than 250 adults and children since the program began last year. There are currently seven families still in the shelter who, Anglea said, are expected to be moved into permanent housing before December as they continue through Interfaith’s program.
The new family shelter will serve 10 to 14 families at a time and will be the only low-barrier family shelter in North County, meaning it won’t require things like sobriety, background checks, program participation and more. Low-barrier shelters are often considered a “housing-first” approach.
Once families get into the shelter, Interfaith’s goal is to help them find housing within 60 to 90 days.
The only other family shelter in North County is Operation Hope, a higher-barrier shelter serving women and families in Vista. Operation Hope is currently at capacity and has a waiting list.
Anglea said they have seen an increase in homelessness among families over the past few months, but there aren’t enough shelters or resources for them.
At the time of the Point In Time Count, 32 families were living on the street in San Diego County, a 113 percent increase from the 15 families counted in 2020.
“I think a lot of people don’t know that family homelessness is such a big problem because they see single adults on the streets and that’s often their image of homelessness,” Anglea said. “Unfortunately, the data we’re seeing is that we’re in the beginning of a larger spike in family homelessness, so this is critical.”
Right now, most homeless shelters in North County and countywide are for adult men and women, Anglea added. Families, especially families with children, cannot necessarily seek help at any homeless shelter because not all shelters can prioritize keeping families together and can’t guarantee the right environment for children.
And with no shelters to turn to, families are being forced to either live in their cars or on the streets.
“It’s important to meet people and support people where they are at,” Anglea said. “We can create an environment that’s very supportive for single adults and adults in couples, but we need to create a separate environment that’s really focused on families with children.
Anglea said the county covered about 75 percent of the renovation costs for the upcoming family shelter, but Interfaith has to raise the money on their own for the shelter’s operations, which will cost about $1 million per year.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Interfaith’s temporary shelter operating out of an Escondido hotel has served 50 families. It has so far served 250 families.