December 6 at 10:13am

Despite funding cuts, North County winter shelters open

Cuts by government agencies, foundations and other funding sources have left providers scrambling to assure they’ll have the resources they need to house and to assist the hundreds of homeless individuals expected to use the shelters this winter. The six programs in the system, overseen by the Alliance for Regional Solutions, housed 480 people last year.

“Funding for each of the individual shelters that are part of the Alliance system comes from the Alliance as a whole. They allocate dollars to individual shelters,” said Craig Jones, associate director for Interfaith Community Services. ICS operates Haven House, one of the shelters in the network.

“In previous years, we got $36,864. This year it’s $29,250. Seven thousand dollars worth of cuts is significant,” Jones stated.

Still, the providers in the shelter network are determined to carry on their programs to perform the critical task of keeping North County’s homeless off the street during the colder winter months.

The need for the shelters is great, providers point out. The annual Point-in-Time count coordinated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, conducted in January 2013, found nearly 1,800 homeless individuals in North County, which includes people in shelters and temporary housing. Previous counts suggest that more than one-third of those homeless are unsheltered, some 600-plus.

“What that illustrates is that the available capacity for sheltering the homeless during the winter season still falls far short of the number needing shelter. We don’t have nearly the available beds or room capacity for the homeless to satisfy the need,” said Jones.

“That reality is recognized in the ongoing process to develop a plan to end homelessness in North County. There are some general provisions in the current draft of the plan to meet those needs,” he added. “We need hundreds of additional beds to meet the needs. That’s not going to happen overnight.”

Developing a plan to end homelessness in North County is an effort spearheaded by Richard Batt, chief executive officer of Interfaith Community Services, through a steering committee comprised of public officials, professionals from health-care, law enforcement and social services agencies.

The committee began this summer to develop a plan with the goals of identifying homeless individuals in North County and creating an improved system of services, more supporting infrastructure and housing capacity, and accountability to measure success of the plan.

There is only so much that the winter shelter network can accomplish  to reduce the number of homeless in North County, admitted Jones.

“By nature, it is an extremely limited resource. People are just there overnight. We stretch to do engagement and case management to remove the barriers for the chronically homeless,” he said. “We have had a remarkable success rate as shown in the statistics in moving the chronic homeless into a better living situation at the end of the shelter season.”

A report prepared by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless showed that 31 percent of the 480 people who spent a day or more in one of the Alliance shelters during the winter of 2012-13 were stably housed when they left. Another 40 percent found some kind of temporary shelter.

Interfaith’s Haven House will continue to offer 40 beds, some for women, at its Escondido site.

The wish of all the providers is to be able to do more.

If you would like to volunteer to help one of the many area shelters this winter, please contact us at (760) 489-6380.