In the past couple of years, in response to increasing concerns about homelessness in the City of Carlsbad, city staff have enhanced efforts to assist those in need of housing and reduce the impacts of homelessness on the community. On Oct. 17, the City Council adopted a Homeless Response Plan, which is being led by the city’s Housing & Neighborhood Services Department. Watch the City Council meeting video.
Has the number of homeless people increased in Carlsbad?
Yes. According to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless annual count released in April 2017, Carlsbad has 160 people considered homeless, which includes 59 “sheltered” and 101 “unsheltered” individuals. In 2016, the total number was 108. Sheltered refers to people living in their cars, self-made shelters and emergency shelters. The “Point in Time” report, which is required for all cities that receive federal aid from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is considered the most reliable source of data about the number of people who are homeless. In 2017, City of Carlsbad assisted county officials with the count in Carlsbad because city staff and volunteers have greater knowledge of the city’s geography and the locations of the city’s homeless populations.
How does Carlsbad compare to other North County cities and the region?
Total homelessness in the region has increased by 5 percent since 2016 and 3 percent compared to 2013.
Why is homelessness on the rise?
Although the reasons for homelessness are complex and varied, experts generally agree that the 2008 recession is a major reason for the recent increase. Many people lost their homes during the recession, which caused the demand for rental housing to skyrocket, thus driving up rents. This made it even harder for people with past evictions, low credit scores and limited cash to find housing. There have also been recent changes in the law that lessen the sentences for certain crimes, resulting in tens of thousands of people statewide released from prisons and probation terms earlier than in the past.
Is it illegal to be homeless?
No. Homelessness is not illegal. People who are homeless are welcome to use public services and visit facilities, such as the library, senior center and city parks. However, certain activities are illegal in Carlsbad regardless of who is involved. These include using or selling illegal drugs; consuming alcohol in certain locations; public intoxication; public urination and defecation; failing to adhere to parking restrictions, such as overnight parking in public lots; camping on public streets; and allowing water to run off into the gutter and storm drain system.
Why is the city concerned about homelessness?
The City of Carlsbad wants to provide the best quality of life for all who live here. Helping those living without permanent, adequate shelter access support and resources improves their lives and the quality of life in the greater community.
How has homelessness affected Carlsbad?
The city has experienced problems with homeless encampments in open space and habitat preserve areas, as well as in public facilities, such as landscape medians, under building overhangs and at construction sites. Encampments often pose a public health and safety risk due to lack of sanitation and fire danger. Homeless individuals have illegally used electrical sources to power RVs and other equipment, and left trash and debris, fecal matter and other pollutants behind for city crews to clean up. Many petty thefts and other crimes have been linked to people who are homeless.
What has the city done to address the effects of homelessness?
To date, the city has completed the following:
Provided funding for homeless programs serving those in Carlsbad, including: La Posada de Guadalupe men’s shelter
Interfaith Community Services Carlsbad Service Center
Solutions for Change program
Affordable housing for veterans
Established a homeless response team that includes representatives from several city departments who share information and coordinate resources.
Hired two dedicated homeless outreach team members to develop relationships, coordinate with service providers, facilitate resource referrals and increase enforcement of laws that protect Carlsbad’s health, safety and quality of life.
Hired two full time rangers to patrol parks, trails and open spaces in Carlsbad.
Worked with the regional task force on homelessness to assist with the annual count in Carlsbad.
Implemented a Hepatitis A prevention program that includes providing free vaccinations to all at risk populations, including people who are homeless.
How does the city help ensure affordable housing is available in Carlsbad?
Lack of affordable housing continues to be a concern in Carlsbad, as it is in most coastal communities in California. The City of Carlsbad has several programs to increase affordable housing opportunities for lower income households. Carlsbad’s mandatory “inclusionary housing program” requires housing developers to provide 15 percent of their total units to low income households. The city also administers state and federal affordable housing and rental assistance programs for those who meet federally designated low income thresholds.
Is the city planning changes to how it addresses homelessness?
City staff have identified potential enhancements to existing efforts, including contracting with local service providers to enhance their work within Carlsbad; increased coordination with other agencies in the region; increased public education; and working with developers to create additional housing opportunities. In fall 2017, the City Council directed staff to implement this Homeless Response Plan, which is ongoing.
Debbie Fountain, director
Housing & Neighborhood Services