Memorial Park, Third Avenue Chula Vista
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The agenda for the City of Chula Vista’s council meeting on March 8 was the homeless situation in the city. After innumerable multi-colored PowerPoints, a speaker from the audience said — “the city is in crisis.”

Lelani Hines, principal project coordinator, was the main presenter.  According to Hines, the homeless population count in Chula Vista was 498 — 177 of those are sheltered, 103 live in vehicles, 35 in structures/tents, and the remaining 183 in streets, doorways, parks, or canyon encampments. 

In 2015, the police had 3531 calls for service regarding homeless people or people complaining about homeless people; often the calls were related to people who suffer mental illness.  

Of the 3531 calls for service,  626 resulted in crime reports; the highest number  due to narcotic activity, followed by arrests or probation violation, violent crimes, burglary, or theft.  The presenter pointed out some crimes were perpetrated on the homeless.

In collaboration with a single Chula Vista park ranger who services 57 parks, the primary police strategy appears to be sweeps.  After communication with homeless individuals, the police sweep through the parks and seize property. The homeless then move out of the area.  Police then sort the property and store materials like photos or other personal items they deem valuable and discard the rest.  

As noted during the meeting, the sweeps have limited usefulness.  Staff likened the sweeps to the “balloon effect”: when squeezed out of one area, homeless groups move to another. 

Rosy Vasquez

Rosy Vasquez

Rosy Vasquez, the program manager for the Sister Dolores Social Outreach program located at Saint Rose of Lima, the only speaker from the audience, called Chula Vista’s homeless situation a crisis.

Vasquez said her program, “in 2015 served 412 unduplicated homeless individuals with emergency food and clothing and we served 4000 unduplicated residents facing food insecurity.  I am here today to thank you on behalf of the individuals in Chula Vista who have found themselves without a proper home or residence due to unemployment, poor choices, mental or physical illness or evictions.”

Vasquez encouraged the council to fund an emergency shelter during the winter and appoint city staff to coordinate efforts.

In an interview, Vasquez said she finds it interesting that the city provides no housing for the homeless,  but there are  designated parking lots where families sleep in cars.  “Saint Rose is open three times a week and 60 to 100 unduplicated individuals come in every time — not all of them would be called street people.”

Tino Martinez

Tino Martinez

Tino Martinez, a filmmaker and president of the Southwest Civic Association, is making a documentary about unsheltered people in Chula Vista.  In a March 9 interview, Martinez said, “ I really want to put a human face on our homeless individuals; I don’t want people thinking they are taking over the parks. We need to share the parks.” 

“A lot of our community commented on social media that they viewed the homeless as dangerous people and were saying the police need to take care of them, but we need to live together in the community.  I’m a Christian man and I love to do the work of Jesus.  My wife collects jackets for families. One thing on my prayer list is a mobile shower for the homeless.”

The day before the city report on the homeless situation, Martinez shot an interview with a homeless individual named Eddy who has lived in the area for over two years.

Eddy is a veteran. While Martinez was filming, Eddy got a call from a crisis center that found him a transitional home due to his veteran benefits. Martinez said, “I saw it in his face. He didn’t know what to do. He was afraid; he’d been out on the streets so long.

“I offered him a ride and storage for his things.” Eddy pondered this for 18 hours. The next day Martinez went  and delivered Eddy to Division Street. “Once I dropped him off at this transitional home, I saw there were 4 or 5 bipolar people he would be living with.  I asked him if he would be able to handle it.  He said, 'Tino, I’ve lived with bipolar people in the park for years. This is nothing. I’ve got a roof over my head.'“

The city’s next step is to deepen the collaborations they have started and to seek more budget resources.

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Comments

AlexClarke March 11, 2016 @ 7:58 a.m.

If you feed a stray dog you will get more stray dogs. No matter how many subsidized taxpayer funded housing units or shelters are provided it will never be enough. The mentally ill homeless should be rounded up and hospitalized. For those who want to get off the streets and get sober and get job training then we need to help them. The rest are bums and there should be nothing for them.

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Susan Luzzaro March 11, 2016 @ 8:26 a.m.

AlexClarke, I suspect your position is a popular one. However, doing little or nothing hasn't been a successful strategy in any city across the country. Many are pleased to see the Veteran's Administration begin to step up. Targeted interventions will play a role, I believe.

I did not have room to include the the San Diego Dream Center. James Merino is the Executive Director. This is a non-profit organization with 300 volunteers. The group originates out of L.A. but Merino is from the South Bay. Through their volunteer efforts and collaboration with the city, 48 people in the South Bay have been given homes and/or assistance.

Perhaps the best way to address the growing population of homeless is like the solution to energy where we need not one big solution, but many layered approaches.

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AlexClarke March 12, 2016 @ 7:08 a.m.

You can only help those who want help. The mentally ill need to be removed from the streets and treated. Those who want to get of drugs/alcohol should be able to get help. Those who want and need job training should get it. Those who want help should get shelter while they are going through the programs. The rest are bums and they are living the way they want. They don't want help. Life should be made impossible for them they will then move to someplace that will support their chosen lifestyle. I am all for helping those who want it.

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Sjtorres March 11, 2016 @ 11:20 a.m.

Vagrants from around North America come to Southern California because of the good weather and free social services. These are not local Chula Vistans, but there are many churches and non-profits that assist them and we can make donations to help them. You can donate more if you really want to help them. But the City of Chula Vista can't even fix its streets, so the city certainly doesn't have extra funds to make it the go-to destination for more homeless. The crime and pollution they have brought to western Chula Vista is truly awful to watch. And for those of us born and raised here, it's a tragedy for our city.

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AlexClarke March 12, 2016 @ 7:10 a.m.

I rarely agree with you but on this I do. Bums are bums. Help only those who want help.

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shirleyberan March 11, 2016 @ 1:07 p.m.

System fails us. People who are given a little help getting into therapy can and do change.

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joepublic March 11, 2016 @ 1:41 p.m.

We're not talking about dogs here, we're talking about human beings. Actually, a homeless person's dog has a much better chance of getting a public shower and a sheltered place to sleep than its owner.

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AlexClarke March 12, 2016 @ 7:10 a.m.

Bums are worthless human trash just like gangbangers. NHI.

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eruption March 14, 2016 @ 2:41 p.m.

I've tried not to respond to you,because a lot of what you say is true. But worthless human trash just doesn't sit well. Wow, how mean spirited! One of the well meaning citizens.

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shirleyberan March 11, 2016 @ 2:04 p.m.

Alex - I don't believe your heart is in what you say here.

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AlexClarke March 12, 2016 @ 7:12 a.m.

I have spent years helping those who want and need it. The rest are bums. They are parasites living off the misguided largess of well meaning citizens.

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anniej March 11, 2016 @ 2:29 p.m.

Tino Martinez - I was DEEPLY touched by your comments and efforts to lend a helping 'kind' hand to Eddy.

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jerrythomas March 11, 2016 @ 3:18 p.m.

The people of the West Chula Vista see things getting worse due to the quantum increase of the homeless. Homelessness changes are a product of current calculated public policy. Sending prisoners to local jails, such as Chula Vista jail and closing four of the five parole offices in San Diego County has led to an escalating parolee release population. The parole office in West Chula Vista is the only one that remains open. The main court ordered substance–abuse counseling program is now located in the closed Jimmy’s Restaurant shopping center on Oxford and Third Ave. The methadone treatment facility is across the street. Board of Supervisors has set-up the only treatment center for the young mentally ill for the whole County in West Chula Vista. The huge escalation of the homeless in West Side Chula Vista is facing and dealing with the failures and risks of our criminal justice system and rehab. Churches, neighborhood groups, voluntary organization, charities are blindsided when public policies and officials do not adequately inform them about the projects. The Chula Vista City Manager has failed to notify the people and businesses and is exposing them to profound risk. He has stated that nothing could be done because the county has imposed these programs on Chula Vista. This decision-making is destroying West Chula Vista quality of life and responsible safe-keeping. The people need solutions that address the needs of the homeless, parolee centers, addict treatment centers closer to their current home cities and transportation availability.

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cvret March 11, 2016 @ 7:12 p.m.

and our mayor does nothing. this is becoming a third world city

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eastlaker March 11, 2016 @ 3:24 p.m.

Studies that have been reported on in the past year or so have been showing that once those who are homeless have housing, it is much easier to treat the other issues or problems, and some real progress can be made.

Thanks to all who continue to work for solutions in this area.

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Susan Luzzaro March 11, 2016 @ 3:29 p.m.

shirley

Long time no see. I laud your great spirit.

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Susan Luzzaro March 11, 2016 @ 3:34 p.m.

JerryThomas, I'm glad to see your contribution to the dialogue. When I went to the SW meeting about the CFDs, I thought I had a copy of your handout in my computer bag but I was mistaken. I am glad that people are getting the substance treatment that they need. But you make a good point, why would both of these places be located in the Southwest?

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cvret March 11, 2016 @ 7:46 p.m.

because they treat us like it's chulajuana, dump the problems here, rip us off on the water bills, on the 125, continually disrespect us and the mayor does nothing

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joepublic March 11, 2016 @ 5:17 p.m.

Were any homeless people invited to be on the city's task force or asked to attend the council meeting?

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ChulaVistaMomOf4 March 11, 2016 @ 6:11 p.m.

As a resident of NW Chula Vista I've seen the numbers of homeless people explode. It makes my heart hurt to see people living on a sidewalk in stormy weather or in blistering hot weather. You can't just lock them up or hospitalize them. (The governor got rid of that way of warehousing them over a decade ago). So, what to do? There is no one size fits all answer.
Each one will need to be asked what it is that they need to move away from the sidewalk and into a stable home. I'd like to refer to the Project 25 that was run by San Diego County HHSA in 2012. It had stellar results. http://sdhc.org/uploadedFiles/Media_Center/Fact_Sheets/7.12.12%20Project%2025%20Report.pdf

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Susan Luzzaro March 11, 2016 @ 6:42 p.m.

Sjtorres, As always I appreciate your input. Please share your statistics regarding people coming from all over North America. I am not aware that Chula Vista did this kind of study. I am aware that every major city in the country has experienced an explosion in people without homes...

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anniej March 12, 2016 @ 8:25 a.m.

Jerry Thomas - your comment has educated us with regard to the location of several agencies. And again,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, what IS the CV Mayor doing - she is flying around the world Mexico, Paris????? - lol the while her City is deteriorating daily. The City Council - useless as - - - -.

Why aren't other cities sharing in the needs of and offering of convenient locations?

Mr. Thomas, you may have just hit the nail on the head.

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jerrythomas March 12, 2016 @ 10 a.m.

anniej-The Southwest Chula Vista has become an open–air drug market. The impact this kind of activity on this peaceful neighborhood is beyond belief. We have illegal marijuana, heroin, and meth all over. I counted nine West Chula Vista pot shops advertised in the San Diego Reader. There is an illegal pot store on Third and Orange that has heroin dealers working the parking lot. They are intimidating the honest, hardworking business people and destroying their stores. I see the drug trash, color containers, next to Castle Park Middle School. It is important to keep this filth away from schools. The number one rule to prevent young people from getting into trouble is-“Lead us not into temptation”. How did we get into this mess and how do we get out of it.

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Susan Luzzaro March 12, 2016 @ 9:04 a.m.

ChulaVistaMomOf4--I just had a little time to look over the link you sent. Project 25 looks like a good program. The byproduct of helping people with housing appears to have benefits for taxpayers as well--fewer trips to Emergency Ward etc. It's just like Eastlaker said, it's much easier to treat the other issues, if a person has a roof over his or her head.

I don't have anything to back it up, but I suspect that it's crucial to get people housed sooner rather than later....

Thanks for sharing..

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jerrythomas March 12, 2016 @ 11 a.m.

Susan Luzzaro-The social welfare agencies are filled with Lincoln Club people who are using the public good for their own private gain. Everything they seem to do is counterproductive. They give huge campaign contribution. The current system is a total failure. The Southwest Chula Vista has been invaded and colonized by these professionalized services and the results are devastating. The Southwest Chula Vista is being overwhelmed by these social services. The social problems are exceeding the community capacity of the local citizens. All the young mentally ill are being treated at the psychiatric hospital on Third near Moss. The parking lot is filled with mini-buses from all over the county. Check out the methadone clinic on Third near Oxford, the local buses are filled with people going there. The meeting on the homeless was a farce and long root canal dental appointment. I e-mail everybody at the city but it is fruitless and a waste of time. It is clear to me that I have been blacklisted. These people can’t stand the TRUTH.

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anniej March 12, 2016 @ 3:37 p.m.

Bet if one of these agencies were to appear on the East side John McCann would be on it like a fly to honey - with cameras rolling and media invited.

Perhaps you might get some local media to listen to you, provide them with facts, call for a demonstration at a City Hall meeting with TV coverage. Point the finger to failure of leadership - OH MY!!!!! All of those future positions a few of them desire UP IN FREAKING SMOKE!!!!!!

We are becoming what National City of old WAS. Thank You Mayor Salas and Council!!!!!!!!

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eastlaker March 13, 2016 @ 8:57 a.m.

Is there a way to find out when these organizations opened up in this area? It doesn't sound like there was much--if any--advance warning, or community participation. While we don't really want to be a nation of NIMBYs, I think it needs to be recognized when a community has become an "easy solution" for everything all the other communities do not want.

Chula Vista does not need to be the dumping ground of the county, but it is beginning to look like that is what the rest of the county wants.

I would like a bit more information regarding those being brought in by bus for treatment--where, exactly, are they coming from. If there are so many of them being brought in, why isn't the treatment facility where they live?

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cvret March 13, 2016 @ 1:35 p.m.

we are the dumping ground because the mayor allows it

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jerrythomas March 13, 2016 @ 12:07 p.m.

Three years ago four of the five parole offices were closed. The parole office in west Chula Vista is the only one that remains open. The Chula Vista City Manager has stated that “nothing could be done because the county has imposed these programs on Chula Vista”. The Southwest Chula Vista is the poorest area in San Diego County and gets everything no other place wants. The mayor and city council don’t care want happens to the Southwest part of Chula Vista.

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eastlaker March 17, 2016 @ 9:56 a.m.

Are these county offices? Why is it that we didn't know anything about this until now?

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shirleyberan March 13, 2016 @ 2:14 p.m.

A bum is a superintendent who easily scams the system. Still gotta follow Brand "investment" money.

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anniej March 13, 2016 @ 5:17 p.m.

Hoping all of you will be on the phone to the Mayors office tomorrow - demanding answers to the facts Mr. Thomas has brought to our attentions.

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