Part one of two on homeless issues in Oceanside
Oceanside CA- The Oceanside Police Department conducted a survey of homeless people in Oceanside and completed the analysis late last year. Members of the department discussed the results, of the survey, with a group attending the MainStreet Oceanside monthly meeting, Tuesday Morning.
Rick Wright, Executive Director of MainStreet Oceanside, explained what prompted the survey by the police department. “Late October, early November, some of the merchants [downtown] had some theft issues and some vandalism.” said Wright. There were some block meetings held and eventually, the merchants met with Oceanside Police Chief, Frank McCoy. The Chief said he would like 30 days to try and assess the situation. Six weeks later, the merchants met with the police department again and Wright said “The merchants reported things were quite a bit better in that six week period”. During the second meeting, “The police department surprised us with a Homeless Assessment Survey they did” said Wright.
“Late last year, there were some perceptions that the homeless situation was getting worse. There was an increase in them [homeless], we were getting inundated by them” Oceanside Police Sergeant, Greg Stahley told the group. Stahley explained to the merchants that there was a new law, “AB 109” that let more people out of prison, early, and that was one of the issues the department was going to look at.
AB 109 shifts the responsibility for incarcerating many low-risk inmates from the state to counties. This shift from state to county is also being called “prison realignment.” It is supposed to help relieve the California prison over crowding problem- See more about AB 109 here [Link]
The police department put together a three page survey with questions pertaining to how long the person had been in Oceanside, what services they used and the reason they came to Oceanside. The survey was voluntary and the police did not check ID’s or run background checks on the 107 homeless people they contacted. 93 people took the survey with 14 refusing to participate.
Out of the 93 people surveyed, 43% stated economic conditions were the reason for them being homeless while 21% were homeless, voluntarily, 10% because of drug/alcohol use and 10% being homeless involuntarily. Disability was the cause for 9% of the respondents and mental illness was given by 7% as their reason for being on the streets. Only one person, of those surveyed was on parole in conjunction with AB 109 but 19 were on probation.
41% of the people surveyed said they have been homeless 1-5 years and 28% have been living on the streets for 6 or more years. The survey also found that many of the homeless had been in Oceanside for a while. 29% of the people said they had been homeless in Oceanside for 1-5 years followed by 28% being here for six or more years.
The reason most of those surveyed were in Oceanside, 46%, was; they were either from the area or had family here. 29% chose the city for its location, 9% for the service offered and 16% listed “Other” on the forms.
When it comes to what services in Oceanside were used by those surveyed, 58% visited Brother Bennos making it the most utilized service in town compared to just 2% visiting the Welfare Office on Union Plaza Ct.
People who said they had the ability to work was 69% and soliciting was the number one source of support for 26% of those surveyed followed by welfare at 23% and recycling at 16%. Surprisingly, 2% of those surveyed admitted to stealing for their support which was equal to the number relying on checks from the VA.
Sergeant, Stahley said the survey had questions about places giving handouts because they wanted to know what was drawing the homeless population to certain areas of Oceanside. The pizza place by the theater on Mission Ave and 3 vendors at the Sunset Market were examples of places the homeless knew where to get handouts. Customers visiting local restaurants and purchasing food for people hanging out on the sidewalk was another source of support.
“There are constant issues with homeless at the underpass on Pier View Way and the bandshell at the beach as a hangout.” Sergeant, Stahley reported “Pretty much, almost, any day of the week you can go to some part of the beach, the park and someone or group will be handing out sandwiches or food.” Stahley continued, “They have a schedule they know exactly where and what time things are happening and the majority of the time, that’s down here [at the beach] so they hangout down here.”
Many of the people live around the river bed, will go eat breakfast at Brother Bennos and then move around the downtown area during the day “because of the stuff they are given while they are down here” said Stahley.
“Obviously there isn’t a permanent solution to the homelessness.” said Oceanside Police Lieutenant, Karen Laser “In order to help the homeless get off the streets, we are researching what other agencies are doing.”
Laser described what the City of San Diego Police are doing with their “HOT” teams (Homeless Outreach Team).
San Diego has four teams that collaborate with local shelters, counselors and social workers to contact homeless people letting them know what service are available to them. “They may not even know what those services are.” said Laser. The social workers have a computer database that can show what services, specific people are entitled to. “So it’s getting them off the street, getting them on their feet, getting a house for them to stay in, temporarily, and getting a them in the work field.”
“As you can see from the survey, some of the people are on the streets, voluntarily but most of them are economic” said Laser “We are going to see what we can do down here, in Oceanside, to actually educate our homeless and get them off the streets.” continued Laser “There are hundreds of places out there that are willing to help, to get them on their feet, that’s what our goal is.”
Money from grants was used to fund the survey and Laser said officers went to all parts of the city at all times of day to contact the homeless for the survey.
click on a thumbnail below for images of the handout from the meeting