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By Cari Hachmann
Staff Writer 

County takes steps toward addressing Fallbrook homeless issue, community leaders respond

 

Last updated 3/15/2019 at 2:26pm

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond of District 5 plans to address the growing homeless population in Fallbrook, posing increased watch by law enforcement and continued engagement with local leaders, he said.

In an interview with the Village News, March 6, at Desmond’s North County office in Vista, the former San Marcos mayor discussed some of his top priorities. Among them was the issue of homelessness, which has become a hot topic for downtown business owners and some residents.

Desmond said he is aware of the issue and hopes to confront it in both Fallbrook and Oceanside. Because Fallbrook is an unincorporated area, unlike the city of Oceanside, Desmond said he understands that Fallbrook demands the county’s help and resources.

Desmond said he wishes he could fix the homeless problem, but it’s going to be a process.

“We are working on trying to get services out there,” Desmond said, “So we can help get (these people) off the streets.”

Desmond’s office sent a letter to Fallbrook’s Chamber of Commerce, March 4, and attached a copy of the Sheriff Department’s “Trespass Arrest Authorization” form.

The form allows law enforcement to act on the behalf of merchants to move trespassers off their property. By signing the form, a property owner authorizes the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to advise trespassers to leave a property or risk being arrested. Should trespassers proceed to violate the current California trespass laws, deputies will act on behalf of a property owner’s behalf in their absence.

It means, during or after store hours, a sheriff’s deputy can escort unwanted persons off a property, or if a business owner has a chronic problem with an unwanted person, they can call the sheriff and have that person removed.

Lila MacDonald, CEO of Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber passed out the sheriff’s authorization forms to all of its member businesses. Anyone can obtain a form from the chamber by stopping by or requesting one be sent to them, she said.

MacDonald’s store owners can post no loitering or no trespassing sign, but there are no California laws against vagrancy.

County-led Revitalization Committee

Desmond also plans to bring county resources to Fallbrook by establishing its own Revitalization Committee in Fallbrook, in addition to the unincorporated areas of Valley Center and Borrego Springs.

The goal is to streamline communication, prioritize issues and drive existing community efforts forward.

Desmond said he wants to bring county staff in to work together with Fallbrook citizens who are already putting forth efforts to revitalize the community.

The first county Revitalization Committee will be held 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday, April 11, at the Fallbrook Public Utilities Department, confirmed Miles Himmels, communications director for Desmond’s office.

Roy Moosa, local Realtor and head of Fallbrook’s Revitalization Committee, addressed the homeless issue at the committee’s morning meeting, March 7, and heard input from other members.

Currently, it seems downtown merchants are at a bit of odds with the faith community who have been helping to provide services to the homeless people they encounter in fallbrook.

Business owners feel providing services to homeless people in the downtown area isn’t the solution because it enables those people to stay in the area.

A letter signed by over 90 merchants was presented to the Fallbrook Homeless Advocacy group detailing their concerns.

Brad Fox, a member of the advocacy group, has stopped attending Revitalization Committee meetings, citing differences in attitudes toward the homeless. He feels his time can be better spent acting on behalf of the homeless, instead of against them.

Moosa said his solution would be to provide homeless people a place to stay, give them a job and make them pay for it.

“I’ve offered several jobs to the homeless,” he said, but ultimately none of them worked out.

Folks at the meeting were concerned that Heinemann Park, which has undergone expensive upgrades, is now being overtaken by the homeless.

Some ideas mentioned were closing the park for at least one month, so those who are staying there could be asked to leave. One idea posed was to turn the park’s sprinklers on to ward off unwanted visitors.

Fox said the church’s stand strong on a non-punitive approach.

“Frankly, the homeless are used to a punishing lifestyle. More punishment simply isn't productive,” he said.

As for the sheriff’s enforcement of trespassers, Fox said, “This is a punitive measure which has been shown not to work in many other cities. Homeless pile up citation after citation, fail to respond, get jailed and released and the cycle starts over again. In the meantime they create a rap sheet that precludes receiving important services that would help to rehabilitate them.”

If anyone at the meeting could agree on one thing, it was that action needed to be taken.

Moosa said the homeless issue sets the committee back on its revitalization efforts.

“It has to be handled and taken care of, otherwise we can’t move forward as a community or as a town,” Moosa said.

 

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