With the race for three open seats on the San Clemente City Council approaching, the San Clemente Times has posed a series of four questions to all 12 candidates.
These past few weeks, we’ve published their responses—one per week—to give readers more insight before casting their votes by Nov. 8. The list of candidates is published according to the random alphabet drawn by the California Secretary of State.
Question 3: What steps do you believe the city should take toward addressing homelessness? Would you support the construction of a shelter or other supportive housing within/near San Clemente?
San Clemente, as a coastal community, has seen an increase in our homeless population. Who amongst us would choose to be homeless? While not true for all, many homeless individuals suffer from mental illness, behavioral disorders and substance-abuse issues that keep them from holding down jobs.
Our housing affordability crisis in California threatens to add to the growing number of people forced to live in cars or on the streets. These are human beings, and the challenges their homelessness presents require more than just aggressive enforcement.
As a nursing professional, I’m trained to care about the health and welfare of others. As a former Air Force captain, I believe in finding solutions that are strategic and creative, rather than reactive and ineffective.
I believe collaboration, cooperation and support at the local level, in partnership with the county and neighboring cities, are key to addressing this crisis. One of our most effective local partnerships is with FAM, a local faith-based nonprofit that provides crucial emergency assistance, including food and rental assistance, to thousands of low-income families, seniors, and veterans.
San Clemente and Camp Pendleton residents comprise 75% of FAM’s clients. It’s time to focus on real solutions that address our city’s homelessness crisis head-on with prevention and intervention strategies to keep families and individuals off the streets.
Specific targeted approaches, including supportive housing and shelters, should be considered, evaluated and developed through community consensus. We have a full spectrum of economic levels in San Clemente. I want every person to feel seen, heard and served as best we can.
There’s no downside to working toward better solutions to homelessness.
Our parents, children and business owners have the right to feel safe when they go to the beach, to our parks, step out of their businesses or simply walk on our city streets, but because many chronic homeless suffer from drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness, the safety of our citizens is often threatened.
Addressing chronic homelessness requires that we provide for both the safety and security of our citizens and respond comprehensively to the needs of the homeless. I believe working toward the construction of a regional shelter located outside of San Clemente addresses both priorities.
We, as taxpayers, contribute a significant amount of tax dollars to the state, which, in turn, is directing those resources toward constructing “Care Courts” and regionally located homeless shelters that will offer the comprehensive services needed: medical care, drug and alcohol addiction treatment services, mental health services, and housing.
I support the state’s efforts to address homelessness on a regional basis. Regional homeless shelters, constructed with the tax dollars we paid to the state, can provide a full array of services. Given our limited local resources, a homeless shelter in San Clemente will fall woefully short of providing such services and only serve as a magnet, encouraging more homeless to come to our city.
We’ve seen time and again that cities with even larger homeless populations seize on such well-intentioned efforts to relocate their homeless populations.
In the case of temporary emergency situations, we should continue to support local organizations that provide a safety net so that families can weather transitions—for example, in cases of domestic violence.
The answers to homelessness are readily available; it just takes the political will to do so. Our city has taken several steps in the right direction such as hiring a community outreach worker, enacting a personal property ordinance, and creating the human affairs committee.
However, an OC Grand Jury has made it clear that we need to be doing more. I believe that a solution lies in cooperation with our sister cities of San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, and Capistrano Beach.
We need to work together to find common ground on a regional solution, which includes creating a low threshold emergency shelter. By working together, I believe that we can find a non-residential area that is close to the intersection of all of our borders. The shelter alone will not solve homelessness.
To do this, our residents need a hand up, not a hand out. The city needs to continue its partnership with nonprofit organizations such as Family Assistance Ministries to get our citizens the help they need.
We also need to make sure that those who want to get off the street have the means to do so. While we continue our work with Mercy House, we can also seek county funds to find additional housing for our most vulnerable population.
The Martin v. Boise decision presents legal challenges in the ways that cities can respond in addressing aspects of homelessness. In a nutshell, this decision prohibits an anti-camping ordinance from being enforced on all locally controlled property unless there is a shelter the individual(s) can be placed in.
Having said that, this does not mean that San Clemente is without the ability to identify certain “sensitive areas” for no-camping enforcement. For example, camping is prohibited on the beach. The city should look at other areas that may be protected under existing federal and state laws, especially in areas of conservation.
San Clemente should explore a voucher program using county, state and federal funding with private shelters in other locations and provide transportation to help expand on a citywide no-camping enforcement; or, alternatively, work with the county to identify a location for a regional shelter outside city limits.
Under state law, San Clemente is required to have an emergency shelter overlay; however, it’s not required to fund or operate one. I would not support a proposal to do so.
Homelessness is a growing concern throughout the various portions of San Clemente.
While this complex issue needs to be significantly addressed on a state level, we can start locally by increasing personnel resources to our existing task force, which should be comprised of mental health specialists, social workers, and drug rehabilitation experts to direct those experiencing homelessness and economic hardships to the right agencies.
However, at its core, homelessness is certainly a housing issue. While affordable housing needs to be developed throughout California as a whole, I’m absolutely in favor of supportive housing and shelters within or near San Clemente, as long as these units have been readapted from commercial vacancies, neglected parcels of land, or other derelict buildings.
To further this point, getting our homeless neighbors off the streets is actually the best financial strategy, as it ends up being significantly more cost-effective than doing nothing at all and subsequently having to pay for street sanitation, crime reduction, cleanup, etc.
Therefore, it’s imperative that San Clemente residents are at least open to the idea of supportive housing from an economic standpoint.
We also need to eliminate all red tape and wait lists for those in need of local temporary housing. If shelters are not being fully occupied, then we need to start looking at the root causes of why some individuals choose to remain on the streets, when other safe, empathetic options exist.
While this is a heavy topic that affects the quality of life of all people in San Clemente, I welcome all ideas and feedback to confront this current housing crisis.
Editor’s Note: This candidate did not respond to San Clemente Times’ requests to participate in the Q&A.
Homelessness is an issue that cannot be solved by one city or council. I propose working with neighboring cities and their councils to come together as a team, so that as one, we can seek assistance from the county to establish a site that could potentially be used for homeless services.
Such a receiving site can help our homeless population with their needs, including mental health services and substance-abuse programs. Improvements will not happen until we establish a team approach and work together.
While this proposition may have been previously attempted, that does not mean we give up. Some sort of homeless shelter and/or housing needs to be in South Orange County; however, few cities want to or have the resources to take on this task alone, and many local residents do not want one near their homes.
This is why a county approach with multi-city involvement is key. We need support and enforcement from our sheriff’s department, as well. I am persistent and am skilled at assessing the problem and engaging with others to work toward a solution.
The city should collaborate with our new county supervisor and other South County cities to set up a regional emergency homeless shelter. The homeless people need a place to go.
Providing a low-threshold emergency shelter also allows the county sheriff’s department to enforce our anti-camping ordinance. This solution will restore the safety and quality of life on our public streets, open space, and beach areas.
The location should be relatively centralized in South County. Given the unwillingness of most cities to establish within their own boundary, county land is preferred in order to limit the impact to residents and businesses.
I do not support a shelter to be built in San Clemente.
As for supportive housing, they are part of the Continuum of Care approach to solve the homeless issues. I will not prioritize city resources to incentivize them in San Clemente.
However, California state law prohibits cities from treating them differently from other multifamily housing; therefore, the power to specifically regulate them is taken away by the state.
As a response, I advocated for a state constitutional amendment, Our Neighborhood Voices, to return the land use control to local municipalities, and will continue to support similar efforts.
Homelessness is something I’m very passionate about, and it takes a lot of compassion to solve this problem.
We must acknowledge that we are in an emergency, and if we do not take effective action immediately, everything we cherish about San Clemente will significantly deteriorate. The tents are already here, and transients are already defecating in public.
There are more than 100,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in Southern California, and I’m running for City Council to send a clear message to everyone: homelessness encroachment and crime will no longer be tolerated in San Clemente.
Homelessness is a quality-of-life issue, leads to increased crime and jeopardizes the safety of our community. As your city councilman, I will ensure that whenever a homeless encampment pops up, our social workers and deputies have all the needed resources to shut it down immediately.
I support increasing our homeless outreach budget to promote our social workers to more effectively connect the homeless with county services. I will continue to put pressure on county agencies to better fund homeless and mental health resources in and near Orange County, including OC Commission to End Homelessness and Office of Care Coordination.
I’ve seen the results of poor public policy, and you can count on me to be proactive and aggressive with preventing homelessness in San Clemente. I won’t allow the homeless to continue living in parks, cars or RVs in our neighborhoods.
I support Proposition 13, which results in more affordable housing for everyone. I will never support dense government housing, a parking lot or a homeless shelter in or near San Clemente.
We are in a homelessness crisis. The solution is to work with federal and state agencies and with our neighboring cities to build and implement a regional county solution.
We must bring the cities within South Orange County back into the discussion of a joint approach to start talking about homeless issues in three levels of severity.
Level 1. Individuals and families, one paycheck from losing their home. They need our food banks and low-income support services.
Level 2. The homeless, due to economic tough times, divorce, or illness and are either employed or unemployed, yet employable. They need community support, low-income housing, and low-income support services.
Level 3. This population receives the most discussion and causes our city the most angst. It is the emotionally and/or physically challenged that need an entirely different level of care and attention.
On the topic of homeless shelters and supportive housing, I support FAM and applaud their effort in providing supportive housing. Yes, I support the idea of growing the number of available housing units by taking advantage of state incentive programs to subsidize low-income rentals.
Homeless shelters in any beach city are difficult, at best, to support. The city encompasses a bit more than 18 square miles and is practically built out. The best solution is to build a homeless facility further inland and not in the City of San Clemente.
- A homeless shelter in San Clemente would only become more of a destination for nearby cities to drop off their homeless.
- We need our community partners with us on this journey.
- We cannot, and will not, solve this alone
We all have compassion for people in need, but homeless encampments should not be permitted. Nor should we tolerate urine and feces on our sidewalks, streets, beaches and parks.
Homeless encampments start out small and then grow, like they have in Santa Ana and Los Angeles. They negatively impact the quality of life and safety of our San Clemente residents and increase drugs and crime.
Of the 45 or so “homeless” people in San Clemente, which our two full-time, city-employed homeless advocates monitor on a daily basis, 15 have mental illness, 15 have drug-related issues and the rest have economic issues or are homeless by personal choice.
The first line of care for these folks should be their very own family. If that is not possible, organizations such as Family Assistance Ministries and various local churches can and do assist people with food and housing.
Temporary housing should be made available by county or state governments on a regional basis for those truly in need. I do not support permanent housing for the homeless in San Clemente. Permanent housing simply creates a class of people wholly dependent on government to provide all their needs, and it does not incentivize personal responsibility.
Those who have mental health issues should be treated compassionately in safe and clean facilities provided by county or state governments.
With vote-by-mail voting beginning on Oct. 10, registered voters in San Clemente should start to see their ballots in the mail in the coming days.
Ashley Williams, whose name will still appear on the ballot, confirmed to San Clemente Times last week that she has withdrawn from the race.
Be sure to pick up next week’s issue, where you’ll find our 2022 Election Voter Guide, featuring interviews with the local candidates running in the State Assembly and Senate, as well as the 49th Congressional and OC Board of Supervisor races.
And in the guide, we’ll conclude our Q&A with the council candidates, who were asked to weigh in on the area’s water infrastructure and whether the city should consider partnering with South Coast Water District for the Doheny Ocean Desalination project.