The City of Escondido has made considerable efforts to address the homeless problem in Grape Day Park.
Chris Bradley, a student of John Paul the Great Catholic University, passes through Grape Day Park on his walk to school. He recounts, “They’d hang out in Grape Day and under the pavilion at Starbucks all the time, but I don’t really see them at all [anymore].” This is thanks to Bill Wolfe, the Deputy City Manager of Escondido. Wolfe worked with the City of Escondido as a police officer 25 years ago and came back as the Deputy City Manager in September of 2017.
Wolfe and the city took a “compassionate first program” into tackling the homelessness. “You can’t lock them up, nor can you have policemen tell them they have to leave town…,” says Wolfe. The police department, with the aid of the McAlister Institute in San Diego, helped implement the program that unites the homeless individuals with their families, especially those needing substance recovery. It also offers them transportation. Together they have united about forty individuals with their families. Another shelter dedicated to helping the homeless is Interfaith Community Services in which the beds are always filled.
However, many residents of Escondido complain that the homeless were only relocated to the Escondido Creek near North Villa Retirement Community. Down a slight incline, luscious trees encapsulate the creek, which are filled with plastic bags, clothing, garbage, needles, cans, etc. A long fence separates the complex from the creek. Small encampments are set up there. Wolfe stated, “We are aware of this . . . the Escondido creek is off limits, and it is actually heavily regulated by the state because the waters float towards the ocean…and there are pollutants.” The city is trying to obtain a permit to clear away the brush and make it less appealing to live there. He says the homeless still living into the community sometimes have contact 20-25 times before they accept aid. The persistence of the police department is all they can do for now.
Wolfe mentions that the majority of homelessness lies within the mentally ill individuals and the lack of services provided by the government. “Until we create a method for those who are mentally ill, we aren’t going to rid of homelessness, but for now we are doing everything to help,” he said.
The City of Escondido has made its city safe and welcoming to all people. Residents can help the city by downloading the Report-IT app. It will allow reports on anything from homeless encampments, shopping carts, and vandalism. If there is anything you see that needs to be addressed, Report It. The submissions are reviewed immediately.
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