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For roughly six years, there have only been three homeless shelters in North County – two of them are low-barrier, which means they don’t require things like sobriety or background checks to enter. The other is a higher-barrier shelter for women and families.
In total, they provide 144 beds.
That’s compared to at least 787 homeless people in North County, according to this year’s federally mandated point-in-time count.
Homeless service providers in the region agree that the number of homeless people seeking shelter and services is increasing rapidly, but the amount of available funding and help from North County’s cities has remained stagnant.
Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, which operates Haven House in Escondido, said North County cities need to prioritize homelessness in their budgets.
“There’s a huge gap in funding – it’s a very stark difference between these North County shelters that are so underfunded and the city of San Diego’s shelters, which are much more adequately funded,” Anglea said.
He said North County has been watching as the city of San Diego significantly increases its shelter beds.
“They’ve opened a 150-bed treatment focused shelter earlier this year, that’s more than the entire shelter capacity of North County,” Angela said.
San Diego has a much larger homeless population than North County, and it still can’t offer shelter to all of the homeless people on its streets. But Anglea said the city has done a better job funding shelters closer to their true cost of operations.
He used the Alliance for Regional Solutions as an example.
The Alliance is a network of eight North County cities that collectively contribute funding to the shelters. This year, the eight cities – Escondido, San Marcos, Oceanside, Vista, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Carlsbad and Poway – will collectively give $509,500 toward the operations of these shelters.
Those funds are distributed using a formula that considers each shelter’s capacity, or the number of beds it has, and how many days out of the year it operates. This year, each shelter will get $8.25 per bed.
Haven House in Escondido has 49 beds and an annual operating budget of $1,006,000. This year, it will receive $191,000 through the Alliance, and nearly $50,000 from federal sources.
Interfaith has to raise the remaining $765,500 through private donations to cover Haven House’s budget.
All of these shelters don’t just provide a bed and a hot meal, Anglea said, they also provide case management, trauma-informed care, mental health services and more.
This year Escondido and Encinitas contributed less than they did last year to the pot of money. Representatives from both cities said they used a portion of their Covid relief funds last year for their contribution, which wasn’t available this year.
Anglea agreed that Covid relief funds helped provide more funding for shelters than previous years, but, he said, cities should find other ways to fund existing and new shelters.
“We all want to do more,” Anglea said, referring to himself and the other North County service providers. “But we frankly are afraid that if we can’t fund what we’re doing, it’s not going to exist anymore, and we’ll actually lose shelter beds and that would be really harmful.”
He and the other service providers in North County frequently discuss ways to increase support and funding, he said.
Each North County city, though, doesn’t get nearly as much state and federal funding as the city of San Diego for housing and service needs. Oceanside, for example, the largest city in North County, annually receives two sources of federal funding to address homelessness determined through formulas that weigh cities by population, poverty level and the age of their housing stock. Between both sources, Oceanside has received around $1.6 million annually for the past several years.
And for other cities, like Escondido, that are financially strapped, it’s even more difficult to prioritize homelessness in their budgets.
Next year, North County will have two new shelters – a 32-bed family shelter in Escondido operated by Interfaith and a 50-bed navigation center in Oceanside operated by the San Diego Rescue Mission.
Renovations for both projects were primarily funded by federal and county funds, and the majority of each shelter’s yearly operational costs will be funded by their respective service providers – similar to Interfaith’s Haven House shelter.