Escondido City Hall / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

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Escondido has multiple pots of money it uses to address homelessness. The money that specifically comes from the city’s general fund is coming under fire from some residents. 

Escondido spent about $2 million of city money last year on homelessness. But 70 percent of that was spent on the Escondido Police Department. 

“We keep seeing the police budget continue to increase, but we also see homelessness continue to increase,” said Escondido resident Alex Garvin at a City Council meeting last week. “I don’t think it’s the right tool for the job, and I don’t think it ever will be.” 

At that meeting, the Escondido City Council heard a staff report about how the city is addressing its growing homelessness crisis. The report detailed how much the city allocated toward homelessness efforts last year and how those funds were spent. 

The report noted that, aside from the $2 million in city money, Escondido also received $10.2 million in grants and federal funding to address homelessness. That money went toward homelessness prevention programs, permanent supportive housing projects and emergency shelter efforts.  

Still, the report was met with criticism from public speakers at the Feb. 15 meeting who questioned why 70 percent of the city’s own homelessness dollars went toward the Escondido Police Department when the police department’s budget is already the largest portion of the city’s overall budget by far. 

Here’s how the $2 million in city funding to address homelessness breaks down: 

The city pushed $643,000 to its Public Works Department for things like debris cleanup, damage repair and outreach, all specifically related to homelessness. 

The rest of the money – about $1.4 million – went to the Escondido Police Department’s Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving unit, or COPPS. These officers respond to calls for service that often involve homeless people.  

When responding to calls, COPPS officers prioritize offering support services and resources for those experiencing homelessness, addiction and mental health needs. They also work to identify areas in the city where these services are most needed. 

The department receives 15 to 20 calls per day on “homeless related issues,” said the report, and about 13 percent of police crime reports involved homeless people – in other words, of the 11,200 police crime reports filed last year, 1,400 of them involved homeless individuals. 

The city also had $60,000 in expenses for the Housing and Neighborhood Services Division staff, which applies for grant funding, manages distribution of grants and works with service providers. But those funds were covered through county and federal grants. 

Last fiscal year, the police department had a $49 million budget. This fiscal year, the department is budgeted at almost $53 million. 

Meanwhile, Escondido has the second-largest unsheltered homeless population in North County, according to last year’s Point-in-Time Count, with 182 unsheltered homeless people. There were also 317 sheltered homeless people, according to the count. 

Local service providers expect to see an increase in those numbers once the results of the 2023 homeless census are released around May. 

Homeless service providers in North County 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.  

Interfaith Community Services CEO Greg Anglea said at the meeting that Interfaith’s shelters helped 430 unique individuals last year and helped prevent homelessness for 152 households. 

But despite these positive outcomes, he said, there is currently no shelter available for someone on the streets in Escondido. There is also no room in any treatment programs or detox facilities, he added. 

“Our outreach workers, our trained mental health clinicians and our pure engagement specialists … they’re out there every day building relationships with people for whom there is no room at the inn, for whom there is no place for them to go tonight,” Anglea said. “We have a long way to go.” 

Carlos Ramirez with Escondido Education COMPACT also spoke at the meeting about the need for more preventative services. 

The nonprofit used to have an initiative called Families First that provided homeless prevention services to Escondido families who have youth in their home between the ages of 10 to 18. In 2021, federal funding allowed the initiative to help 54 families or 216 individuals. 

This fiscal year, that funding wasn’t available because of changes in funding allocations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

Between July 2022, and Feb. 2023, Families First received and screened 114 referrals of families who are at risk of homelessness, but without a new source of funding, those families cannot be enrolled in the program. 

Councilmember Mike Morasco said Escondido is dedicating a lot of effort to dealing with the homelessness crisis and is doing a lot more to address homelessness than many other cities in North County. 

He added that each piece of the effort, including the police, is an integral and important part of addressing homelessness. 

Councilmember Consuelo Martinez also pointed out that there are other resources available in the county and region besides the police, but those resources, many of which are in their early stages of development, can quickly become overwhelmed, and it becomes the police department’s responsibility to step up. 

Escondido Mayor Dane White ultimately agreed that there needs to be more resources including detox facilities, residential care facilities and permanent supportive housing. 

“The fact of the matter is, the numbers keep going up, but the number of services remain the same,” White said. 

He proposed establishing a city council subcommittee dedicated to homelessness efforts and asked staff to bring recommendations back to the council. 

In Other News 

  • Interfaith Community Services is preparing to open a new emergency shelter for homeless families in Escondido. The shelter, designed specifically for families, will be the only one of its kind in Escondido and one of three in North County. It is expected to open in April. (Union-Tribune) 
  • The Del Mar Council held a goal-setting workshop where they discussed a possible building electrification ordinance in the city’s future. The council also discussed the largest and most expensive projects coming up for the city, which will be to move the train tracks off the Del Mar bluffs. (Union-Tribune) 
  • The Encinitas council last week expanded its smoking ban to include all public places in the city. The previous ordinance banned smoking in parks, beaches and trails. The city now has one of the strictest anti-smoking ordinances in Southern California. (Coast News) 
  • ICYMI: Oceanside’s city staff quietly suspended a program for low-income families without going through the Housing Commission or the City Council first. Now the Housing Commission is hoping to reinstate it. (Voice of San Diego)  

Join the Conversation


  1. . . . or you could report that $1.4 million of the $12.2 million available to combat homelessness went the EPD, specifically to its COPPS program to specifically offer support to those experiencing homelessness , addiction and mental health issues. But then that’s only 11% and not very inflammatory, please stick to reporting or label the your piece ‘opinion/editorial’.

  2. I am inclined to agree with the majority of funds in the city of Escondido being spent on Police Services. The EPD, specifically Psychiatric Emergency Response Team at Escondido Police Department, saved me from the full service provider Mental Health Systems, Inc.. MHS is under contract to provide housing, mental health, educational, probationary, diversion services and matching funds at 25% of grant(s) funded bu HUD, PIH, SDCOE, diversion (Court), Probation, … Yet , they do not provide, match, rather are known, posers, unqualified, unlicensed, people, from interns to volunteers, that can’t keep records for the services they don’t provide. For obvious reasons. First, hand experience, including document, financial records, court records, and my own forensic accounting of MHS scam throughout the state, would love to match my records with the deficiencies at all levels of government, condoning the bad actors, committing fraud, and in breaches of contract. Doubt you will post this, so, nothing lost. Uncertain where the VOSD priorities lie, (no judgement) we all do what is necessary to survive. However, these entities government, no-profit, and the like should be serving those citizens which funds are earmarked, but for that, these uneducated, unlicensed and non-clinically, and self-certified WTB’s would be unemployed as they should be. Or serving the prison sentences earned by bad acts. Paying bad actors to make amends in public community service, is a problem, since no reform took place to make the ensures they are reformed. No offense, there is nothing likea any solution on the table or in the works, money throw away short term couln’t patch a pin hole in a sinking water device.

  3. EPD-PERT, had received and investigated every false claim made any an FSP of this county and determined not less than eighteen times, the false reports were untrue, and the incident reports reveal the same. I have never been a danger to me or anyone else, I have no history of threatening, violent behavior or anything of that nature. I have one regret, police could or would not help file the restraining order needed to keep those, bad actors from illegally entering my residence with a key, they are not allowed to possess. Safe at home, the San Diego County District DA, Summer Stefan, also refuses to do her job, Jewish Family Services, PATH, FHCSD, ICS and the Social Security Administration, all know and should know what due diligence is, especially in preventing foreseeable events that cause loss and damages to innocent parties. Thank you, call me, write me, need proof. I am your man, 40+ years not just 20+ in lived experience, formal education, training and success with solving these issues. But, potatoes are not looking for solutions, opportunities to A.C.T., saves money, is is working. Rapid Rehousing, (AKA Recycling) maximum 3 month reprieve only to be back at the beginning and withlout the priority pre rapid shuffling. Solution short term, are nothing more than fallicies of reasoning. Homeless is not yet a crisis, factor in the number aging out of systems, times the numbers exponentially growing since 1986. Solution. NOt
    1986, all the dollars \relieves government of

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