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El Cajon's homeless feeding ban reconsidered

Councilman suggests discussion as hep A epidemic wanes

From the "Break the Ban" Facebook page
From the "Break the Ban" Facebook page

A city councilmember in El Cajon has proposed rescinding the controversial ordinance that prohibits people from giving food to the homeless in city parks.

In a January 18 memo, councilmember Ben Kalasho said that as the hepatitis A outbreak nears the end so, too, should the ordinance.

The city council approved the ordinance in October of last year, at the height of the local epidemic. At the time, councilmembers said the ordinance was needed to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

But the ordinance gained national attention on January 14 when El Cajon police officers handed out criminal citations to 13 people who were passing out food to homeless people as part of a "Break the Ban" event at Wells Park on East Madison Avenue.

Attorney Scott Dreher, who has challenged the City of San Diego's encroachment laws, is representing the 13 people and says a lawsuit will soon be filed.

Now with the threat of legal action coming, at least one councilmember is walking back on the ban.

In the memo, Kalasho is asking the mayor and his colleagues to rescind the ordinance at a February 13 meeting.

Kalasho says that the county is likely to call an end to the public health emergency over hepatitis A; in turn, the city should be proactive and kill the ordinance.

"I think that given the public attention and controversy this ordinance has caused recently, it would be appropriate for the City Council to publicly and specifically adopt a resolution or statement ending the Ordinance at our next regularly scheduled City Council meeting," Kalasho writes in the memo.

The city council will discuss placing the item on the February 13th agenda during the council's January 23rd meeting.

UPDATE 1/23, 1:20 p.m.

After this story was published, a member on the city council got in contact to say, "The city has announced that the ordinance has now been rescinded due to the fact the county has decided to end the Hep A public health emergency."

Kalasho's memo apparently was not the impetus for lifting the ban.

A city press release issued today reads, "Earlier today, the County Board of Supervisors voted not to extend the Hepatitis A public health emergency. Based on the County’s action, El Cajon’s food sharing urgency ordinance has expired. City staff has since removed notices of the ordinance in its parks. During the time that food sharing was restricted, local charities and community groups coordinated in their food sharing efforts. The City encourages community groups to continue their valuable service to our community through the collaborative approach."

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From the "Break the Ban" Facebook page
From the "Break the Ban" Facebook page

A city councilmember in El Cajon has proposed rescinding the controversial ordinance that prohibits people from giving food to the homeless in city parks.

In a January 18 memo, councilmember Ben Kalasho said that as the hepatitis A outbreak nears the end so, too, should the ordinance.

The city council approved the ordinance in October of last year, at the height of the local epidemic. At the time, councilmembers said the ordinance was needed to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

But the ordinance gained national attention on January 14 when El Cajon police officers handed out criminal citations to 13 people who were passing out food to homeless people as part of a "Break the Ban" event at Wells Park on East Madison Avenue.

Attorney Scott Dreher, who has challenged the City of San Diego's encroachment laws, is representing the 13 people and says a lawsuit will soon be filed.

Now with the threat of legal action coming, at least one councilmember is walking back on the ban.

In the memo, Kalasho is asking the mayor and his colleagues to rescind the ordinance at a February 13 meeting.

Kalasho says that the county is likely to call an end to the public health emergency over hepatitis A; in turn, the city should be proactive and kill the ordinance.

"I think that given the public attention and controversy this ordinance has caused recently, it would be appropriate for the City Council to publicly and specifically adopt a resolution or statement ending the Ordinance at our next regularly scheduled City Council meeting," Kalasho writes in the memo.

The city council will discuss placing the item on the February 13th agenda during the council's January 23rd meeting.

UPDATE 1/23, 1:20 p.m.

After this story was published, a member on the city council got in contact to say, "The city has announced that the ordinance has now been rescinded due to the fact the county has decided to end the Hep A public health emergency."

Kalasho's memo apparently was not the impetus for lifting the ban.

A city press release issued today reads, "Earlier today, the County Board of Supervisors voted not to extend the Hepatitis A public health emergency. Based on the County’s action, El Cajon’s food sharing urgency ordinance has expired. City staff has since removed notices of the ordinance in its parks. During the time that food sharing was restricted, local charities and community groups coordinated in their food sharing efforts. The City encourages community groups to continue their valuable service to our community through the collaborative approach."

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Comments
13

Another thing that should end is the term of Ben Kalasho on the El Cajon City Council.

Jan. 21, 2018

I'd guess the motivation to pass that ordinance had little or nothing to do with the Hep A epidemic, although it may have been used as an excuse. Better to be able to claim it was done to protect public health than to admit the city just wants fewer homeless folks in its boundaries, and fewer of them visible. But this offers a graceful way to exit a situation that is getting El Cajon plenty of negative publicity for being mean spirited.

One sidelight to this story is that the U-T kept referring to those who were charged with a crime as having been "arrested." They were NOT arrested, but rather were cited. While they might have been subject to arrest if they refused to accept the citation (BTW a "traffic ticket" is a citation) by signing for it, nobody got the arrest treatment. In case this isn't clear, an arrest is a physical removal from the scene under restraint (meaning handcuffs) and a trip to jail where one is booked, photographed, and usually required to post bail or wait for a court appearance. There is a huge difference. Does nobody at the U-T know the difference? That's my take. So much for accuracy in journalism.

Jan. 21, 2018

Never try to confuse a reporter with the facts.

Jan. 22, 2018

Interesting the concern by the city of El Cajon officials regarding hepatitis A and citizen health - yet there's been little to no enforcement on the no smoking ban (tobacco & vaping) over many years. I think second hand smoke is a very serious health issue, yet our leaders and enforcers don't appear to give a damn. Cough! El Cajon is actually listed as a "smoke free" city. Really? That's a joke!

Jan. 22, 2018

the casinos seem to get a pass on that law.

Jan. 22, 2018

The casinos are not getting a "pass" because as sovereign nations, they set their own laws.

Jan. 22, 2018

soveregin until they need something from outside their nation, like law enforcement .

Jan. 23, 2018

No matter what side of the argument you are on the homeless have turned Wells Park into a place where the taxpaying citizens can not use it. While feeding the homeless seems like the right thing to do it is like giving alcohol to an alcoholic or drugs to a druggie. There are places and programs to address the homeless issues but most of the Wells Park residents don't want to get off the streets, or work, or get off drugs/alcohol or do anything to become a contributing member of society. If you really want to help donate your time or money to a shelter and/or program that help people who want help get off the streets. The rest are bums.

Jan. 22, 2018

I took an IV drug user who has been clean for 6 months (just got out of prison) around begging to be admitting into rehab last week. I had to take three days off of work and NO luck. Called 211, went to the ER, tried to flag one of these HOT teams I keep hearing about and went to several well known faith-based ministries. This person is hopefully getting into a place this week due to their own persistence. I'm an admin and have been a volunteer advocate, so I'm good with red tape. I know you say there is help for those in need but not nearly enough. San Diego doesn't even subsidize bus passes for low income residents (I'm from MD originally and was shocked to learn this first hand). How do we expect people to navigate such a confusing system that sends them around in circles without even access to transportation? Until we actually get these people into services (trust me most are willing!) I'll be out there sharing food because food is a human right!

Jan. 23, 2018

If he as been "clean for 6 months" why is it he needs to go into rehab? He, to me, is a worthless piece of human trash. A drug user by choice and a criminal by choice. Some people learn a lesson and become productive citizens. I had a good friend, now deceased, who screwed up, went to prison, got out, got away from the dirt bags that he "hung with", got a job and became a productive citizen. He got help and got squared away because he wanted to. The only good IV drug user is a dead one.

Jan. 24, 2018

These 'homeless' people receive on average, $182 per month on their EBT (CalFresh) cards. How can they be starving? I have personally chatted with quite a few of these so called 'homeless' people and I can tell you this, many are there by choice because they have learned to 'game' the system and overall don't mind living this way. No bills, don't have to work, no responsibilities, and so on. free food sources, free clothing given to them, free blankets / sleeping bags and other camping gear. It is a rough existence, yet for many (quite a few recently out of jail or prison) this is a way of life they choose. You see them everywhere, lounging around, apparently not looking for work. Many abuse drugs and alcohol. To blame our city leaders for every cause of homelessness is what the uninformed do. The city of El Cajon for example, spends tens of thousands of tax dollars to help the less fortunate. Sadly though, only a few take the offers by designated entities to get off the streets and become productive again. It has become way too easy to get free benefits from the government for life, and not have to perform any work for what they get. Didn't used to be this way long ago. Tough changes need to be enacted, Homeless people often trash the very places where they camp (usually public) and hang out, much to the dismay of others. Being homeless should not equate to acting in an aberrant way. Handouts of food is done by many local places. It's done in a sanitary manner as well. Homeless people need to have designated areas to lounge around, so as not to annoy other residents (like at parks, the library, in front of coffee shops and fast food places) begging for money to supply their dirty habits. Homelessness seems to be the job of choice by many these days. "Will work for food"? That is truly a joke. Sad, very sad.

Jan. 24, 2018

It seems that every time I walk by 30th & University in North Park, the same filthy, crazed person is camped out on the sidewalk, and he's usually screaming (at people or his own demons). A friend said he was throwing beer bottles at people one day. No SDPD officer ever came to arrest him. He's a menace and needs to be removed from that spot permanently.

Jan. 24, 2018

Here is what befuddles me about all this. Has anyone even hinted that any of the folks who either prepared or distributed any of the food in question have Hep A or have somehow infected anyone?

So the folks are redirected to community groups who will offer them food. Why are the people working for "Community groups" any more qualified to offer food products than simple volunteers?

Jan. 24, 2018

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