Thursday, July 28, 2016
[San Diego County] Santee responds to Grand Jury report on homelessness
SANTEE — Santee is doing what it can to help the homeless in the city, financially and through its law enforcement, the city says, in response to a recent county Grand Jury report criticizing efforts to help the homeless in East County.
Santee is the first East County city to respond to the report.
Kathy Valverde, assistant to the city manager, said city staff members disagree that Santee has what the Grand Jury calls “marginal involvement” in homelessness.
The City Council heard a report from Valverde at its July 13 meeting that outlines Santee’s work helping its homeless.
The Grand Jury report filed in June asserts that Santee, El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove are not doing enough for the homeless. According to the 2015 Regional Task Force on the Homeless count, Santee has 30 unsheltered homeless persons living in the city; El Cajon has 711, La Mesa 19 and Lemon Grove 11.
The city cites its partnership with Crisis House in El Cajon, its financial support to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and its participation on the East Regional Homeless Outreach Team as “notable contributions” in helping the homeless.
Valverde said that Santee since 1993 has provided funding to Crisis House, which provides humanitarian services to the poor.
City staff also corrected an error in the Grand Jury’s report that stated Santee gave $2,000 to Crisis House this year when the actual amount was $5,000.
The city’s report also notes that Santee provides $2,500 annually to support the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, which compiles and analyzes data to help alleviate homelessness.
The city’s report also said that the Santee sheriff’s office works with El Cajon police, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency and the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team as part of the East Region Homeless Outreach Team.
The outreach team, the report said, is to provide “a humanistic and socially responsive approach to improving the quality of life for chronically homeless individuals,” keep the East County safe for both homeless and non-homeless people, and ultimately to help end homelessness.
Santee has six deputies and one sergeant on the East County HOT, and the Sheriff’s Department works with social service representatives to give the homeless information to help connect them with resources.
The City Council also discussed a Grand Jury recommendation that a representative from Santee as well as the other East County cities join the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care Council.
That group since 1998 has worked countywide to address underlying causes of homelessness on individuals and in communities.
City Councilman Ronn Hall said he supports joining the group, but City Councilman Rob McNelis said he wanted a better idea of what the cost might be.
The expense, he said, would include staff time. He said he wondered who would be assigned to attend Regional Continuum of Care Council meetings and was concerned about hours that would be taken from that staff person’s regular job for the city.
“I have a hard time voting on something I don't know what the cost is going to be,” he said.
Valverde said that staff members will bring back more information in August about how much joining the group would cost the city.
Mayor Randy Voepel suggested Santee look into an advisory board with citizen volunteers to represent the city on homeless issues.
July 15, 2016
The San Diego Union-Tribune
By Karen Pearlman