Online forums seek feedback on shelters and services in an unincorporated area

County officials are asking residents of unincorporated areas to join a series of online forums to share their thoughts on what services should be provided for the homeless and where they should be located.

The first session, held on May 19, attracted few participants and was moderated by Omar Passons, director of integration services in the department of housing and community development services of the health and social services agency. San Diego County Social Services.

“We need to respect people’s dignity and their choices, have a solution that will work for them, and work with people in the community,” Passons said.

The next session is scheduled for Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by another Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. A final session is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 5.

People can participate by joining a Zoom meeting at scheduled times by visiting and using meeting ID 890 177 8689.

Comments and questions can be submitted by emailing, calling, or texting Gloria Garzon at [email protected] or 619-759-0017.

Passons said the sessions grew out of an April 6 County Board of Supervisors meeting where members asked staff to speed up the process of finding solutions and opportunities to get people off the streets and onto the way to housing.

Historically, efforts to create shelters, housing and services are often stalled by community opposition, particularly when residents say they have been left out of the process.

Efforts to help the homeless have also been criticized in the past for failing to meet the needs of the people they are meant to serve.

With that in mind, Passons said input from sheltered people and homeless people is solicited in advance. People living in some homeless encampments were also asked for their views as part of the county’s efforts to get feedback, he said.

Kathryn Rhoades called to suggest the county consider working with incorporated towns and using cabins near lake reservoirs for housing. As an example, she said Santee has camping cabins near her reservoir.

A woman identified as Tina from Spring Valley appeared on camera during the Zoom meeting and suggested the county identify sites near transit stations and grocery stores when reviewing service locations.

She also said there was definitely a need for services in Spring Valley, but there had always been opposition to providing them.

The session was divided into two one-hour parts. Rhoades was one of only two participants in the second hour, and Tina was one of seven in the first hour.

No participant said the county should not try to do anything to help people get off the streets.

One woman suggested creating services on the south shore of Mission Bay, and Passons pointed out that the area is within the San Diego city limits and that the county should focus on the unincorporated area.

Another caller suggested using storefronts that had become vacant due to the pandemic, and another suggested creating a camping-type shelter.

Passons began the session by showing photos of various types of accommodations and shelters, including urban and rural campgrounds.

Encouraging people to be open-minded to different ideas, he also showed images of small house communities, small living units made from pallets and houses made from converted shipping containers.

While saying the county is trying to move quickly to find ways to help people on the streets, he also warned that solutions won’t come overnight and are sometimes more expensive than people imagine. .

“Anytime an option comes up, there are a lot of layers that we have to think about,” he said.

As an example, Passons said people might read about tiny homes that only cost $20,000 to build and wonder why cities and counties don’t pursue them more often. What they don’t realize, he said, is that public entities also have to pay for electricity, plumbing, food, transportation and other associated costs.

“It’s not to make excuses,” he said. “We all want solutions.”

Harry L. Blanchard