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North County service provider sees needs surge during pandemic

John Van Cleef
Community Resource Center CEO John Van Cleef.
(File photo)

Community Resource Center has contracted with Carlsbad, Encinitas and Oceanside to help residents avoid homelessness

With fears of evictions and possible homelessness mounting during the coronavirus pandemic, Community Resource Center has partnered with three North County coastal cities to keep people in their homes while also continuing programs focused on domestic violence and food insecurity.

“There have been a lot of people who have experienced unemployment for the first time, and a lot of people who lost their jobs as the economy slowly reopened and closed,” said John Van Cleef, CEO of the 41-year-old nonprofit. “Now we have a whole host of people at imminent risk of being homeless.”

Van Cleef said Carlsbad, Encinitas and Oceanside have partnered with the Community Resource Center to implement programs funded by $1 million secured by California Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath to address homelessness in her district.

He credited Horvath with having a clear awareness of growing homelessness in the area because she served on the Encinitas City Council before her election to the Assembly.

While the state funds to address homelessness were secured before the pandemic struck, Van Cleef said the outbreak has made the money even more crucial.

Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside and Vista each received $250,000 from the allocation. While Vista has its own homelessness action plan, the three coastal cities agreed to work with the service provider already addressing the issue in their areas.

The contracts were signed July 1, and after about a month of connecting local residents with case workers, Van Cleef said the center has just processed its first check to pay someone’s rent.

Community Resource Center was offering similar help before the contract with local cities.

Van Cleef said he noticed he was signing a good number of checks to cover people’s rent about two months ago, so he tallied the cost. He found in one week at the end of May, he signed 27 rent checks totaling $34,000.

With so many people facing financial challenges because of the shutdown from the pandemic, Van Cleef said much of the state funds likely will go toward paying rent. While the contracts with the three cities are for a full year, he said he does not believe the state funds will last that long, but is confident other money will come through.

“We have been so blessed to be in a community that has responded generously and compassionately, and to know about their neighbors in need,” he said about area donors.

The need to help renters likely will grow, he said. Van Cleef called a statewide moratorium on evictions a saving grace for many renters, but also said many people could face homelessness when the moratorium ends.

“Once that moratorium is lifted, people who owe two, three, four, five or six months back rent are going to be in an economic crisis,” he said. “How are they going to repay that debt? And landlords who rely on this as part of their revenue, they have obligations, too. In our own region and certainly across the state, we’re likely to see a new wave of homelessness.”

Besides helping people facing a financial strain, Van Cleef said Community Resource Center also is helping more women experiencing domestic violence, which appears to have escalated during the pandemic.

“COVID and the shelter-in-place order have exasperated the reality of people experiencing domestic violence,” he said, adding that the stress of a job loss and increased alcohol consumption can trigger outbursts at home. The center already had programs to help domestic violence survivors, and Van Cleef said a hotline for help has received 943 calls, a 36 percent increase between March and April 23.

The nonprofit also is working to place homeless people in permanent housing and is continuing its food pantry program.

“Within the existing population of people who are chronically homeless, their vulnerability has been amplified,” he said.

Since March, the center has distributed emergency food to 4,673 needy families.

Residents of Encinitas, Carlsbad or Oceanside who are in need of housing assistance can call Community Resource Center at (760) 753-8300 or learn about programs online at crcncc.org/housing-assistance.

— Gary Warth is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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