Vista City Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday after learning that its homeless residents aren’t getting into shelters because of limited shelter capacity.
The city now wants to fast track the opening of its own homeless shelter, and city leaders might declare an emergency to make that happen.
Some background: There is one homeless shelter in Vista but it is exclusively for women and families. In addition, the city has agreements with two shelters in neighboring cities to shelter other homeless residents.
One is La Posada de Guadalupe in Carlsbad and Haven House in Escondido. These are low-barrier shelters which don’t have sobriety, background checks and program participation requirements for residents.
Vista’s homeless outreach team can refer homeless residents to those shelters depending on capacity. Haven House sets aside 10 beds to Vista’s homeless residents as part of an agreement with the city.
That access is possible because Vista contributes about $200,000 annually to the Alliance for Regional Solutions, a network of eight North County cities that collectively contributes funding to homeless shelters in that part of the region. Vista contributes the most out of all North County cities.
The latest: City leaders recently learned its homeless residents who have wanted to enter a shelter in the past 10 months couldn’t do so because of a lack of shelter beds.
Between Oct. 5, 2022 and Aug. 10, 2023, Vista’s homeless outreach team referred 87 homeless people to either La Posada or Interfaith, but 50 of those referrals were unsuccessful, according to a city staff report.
A Covid outbreak at La Posada and staffing shortages at Haven House contributed to capacity issues, KPBS reported, but council members said they were “alarmed” that this has been going on for months and they are just now finding out about it.
Looking ahead: City leaders have been talking about opening a low-barrier non-congregate shelter in Vista for a few years now. A non-congregate shelter is one that provides private units or rooms to homeless individuals and families.
City staff said they were planning on sending out a Request for Proposals in early October to search for service providers that would run the shelter. Now, though, council members want the entire process expedited.
Mayor John Franklin said he thinks they should aim to open the shelter to clients starting Jan. 1, and he suggested that the city declare an emergency to speed up the process.
The council will also renegotiate its terms with the Alliance for Regional Solutions, including its annual contribution to the shelter network. Both items will be considered at Vista’s next council meeting on Sept. 26.