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San Clemente Times
Leading up to the San Clemente City Council election on Nov. 6, the San Clemente Times is publishing six questions, one each week, that we’ve asked each individual who qualified for the ballot to answer. Be sure to look for next week’s edition when we publish the second list of question. The list of candidates is published in the order of the random alphabet the California Secretary of State recently drew.
Week 2: How do you plan to address issues related to homelessness and transient populations in San Clemente?
Gene W. James
The ever-increasing number of vagrants creates a clear and present danger to our city on several fronts. I cringe at the word homeless; homelessness might be a symptom, but it is not the core problem. We are facing untreated mental illness and chronic drug addiction, usually combined, coming from all over the country. The city’s role in this problem is one of public safety. It is imperative that our first order of business is the protection of our citizens while ensuring our city’s treasures are protected from being abused by those who do not respect them.
Many of our homeless are veterans and choose San Clemente because of the proximity to Camp Pendleton. We have a responsibility to ensure that once our veterans have served our nation that they have a safe, stable place to call home. I would approach homelessness from a housing-first perspective and will lead efforts to bring Habitat for Humanity to San Clemente to create housing for the homeless. Ending homelessness in San Clemente requires additional support from law enforcement, county agencies and groups like FAM and Mercy House. I commit to joining forces with these groups in their efforts.
Homelessness is our most complex issue in San Clemente and it affects all of Orange County. We inherited much of the problem and now the spotlight is on us. One thing that I know for sure, we don’t want to create another sober living home scenario. To be effective, we can’t just create housing opportunities; we also have to stimulate the local economy to ensure a place for every community member. This can only be done by uniting surrounding cities and other elected officials with community groups, from nonprofit organizations to churches, with the goal of ending homelessness.
Tiffany Joy Robson Leet
San Clemente does not have resources to maintain a homeless community. We have chosen not to build facilities to house and feed homeless or transient populations, and I do not support initiating these facilities in San Clemente. It is not about a lack of compassion for the homeless. There is nothing compassionate about allowing people to sleep in alleys or be endangered by wandering the streets. I am concerned with compassion for our city’s residents. I would support using city funds to provide safe transportation to established homeless facilities located in neighboring areas that have chosen to support these populations.
Collaborate with all levels of government and a social service group to connect homeless with support services and housing resources and direct those with mental health issues to county/state agencies with expertise/authority. I would seek federal and state grant funds that flow through the county to be shared to help cover local costs and work with our legislators to generate political will to fund programs at levels necessary to meet the needs of the homeless. If it takes city funds, then direct how the money is spent, with a goal of reuniting homeless with their families or temporary housing.
Homelessness is a product of issues, including: employment, disability, housing prices, addiction, mental health and more. I am a strong believer in the housing-first model, which is based on the principle that those who are afforded stable housing and proactive support are more empowered to address their other issues. For San Clemente to do its fair share in addressing homelessness, we must hold both the OC Board of Supervisors and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett responsible for providing us with the resources we desperately need. Ensuring the best quality of life for all members of our community is my top priority.
As your Councilwoman, I voted for a solution to the S.B. 2 zoning for a homeless shelter as part of our housing element certification. I will continue to support partnering with Family Assistance Ministries, whose Gilchrist House and other facilities provide shelter beds to homeless individuals and children. The city also partners with El Camino Healthcare to provide medical assistance to homeless individuals and Lyft to provide transportation. I voted to add Mercy House, who will be in our city reaching out to homeless six days a week, in partnership with our sheriff’s department and other providers.
As a member of the City Council, I will work immediately to define our strategy on this issue. While the Council’s actions have been well-intentioned, they fall short of a defined, actionable strategy. I will work with agencies currently engaged on this issue, representatives from other South County cities, and established experts to articulate a comprehensive, transparent strategy. This strategy will be shared with all residents in public forums and shaped with their input. This issue, which looms so prominently in the hearts and minds of residents, deserves our best thinking and our most transparent collaboration.
Much like the Toll Road, we cannot be successful unless we work together with our neighbors. As your Councilmember, I will continue to work with FAM to help keep people from becoming homeless as well as sending willing people home through the Homeward Bound program (which has helped over 40 people return home). I support our partnership with Mercy House, Gilchrist House and our homeless liaison through the sheriff’s department. It’s crucial we continue to enforce our anti-camping, loitering, and open-container laws. Encampments in our canyons, next to our schools, on our beaches and public land is dangerous and unacceptable!
Don’t ever enable the mentally ill, druggies and criminal homeless to make San Clemente their home by feeding or giving them money. Let the sheriff deputies and Mercy House deal with them. Do not paint all homeless with the same brush. There are abused women and families with children who are homeless—desperate and in need of help. Support organizations such as Laura’s House, Gilchrist House and Family House in San Clemente that are very worthy and need your help. When we see homeless Veterans at Marine Monument Park Semper Fi, we offer them a Homeward Bound program similar to FAM.
The homeless problems of today are not the problems of even 20 years ago. I will work toward regional solutions that help those wanting assistance to get off the streets while giving our law enforcement personnel the resources they need to ensure the city’s laws are fully enforced and the public welfare is maintained. I will also demand that the hundreds of millions of dollars the County of Orange has stockpiled to address homelessness are immediately deployed.
A multi-faceted, broad-spectrum approach is needed in this complex issue. Help for those that want it (FAM,etc); Accountability for those who don’t. If those in need refuse help, they should be treated as vagrants! Continued pressure upstream politically takes time. More police “boots on the ground,” more aggressive policing than we have been seeing (at Council direction). Careful attention to individual rights of all our citizens. Merchant/business/citizen engagement, we all must not allow vagrant actions to override our village character.
Editor’s note: Ed Ward and Kathy Ward are not related