Homeless center contract, grocery cart ordinance in the works, Encinitas City Council is told

The downtown Encinitas banner sign.
(The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A proposed ordinance spells out that retail establishments own their shopping carts and are responsible for collecting them when someone takes them off-site


A regional homeless service center in Vista, a proposed city grocery cart ordinance and better tracking of unhoused people are all pending projects, regional social service providers and city employees told the Encinitas City Council Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 23.

During a special workshop on the Encinitas Homeless Action Plan, the service providers and employees said that:

  • An agreement with the city of Vista regarding a proposed regional “navigation” center, which will provide housing assistance and other services to homeless people, will likely be ready for the council’s review in September or October. Encinitas has received a one-time grant of $930,000 to help finance this project and is looking for more money.
  • Efforts to track who receives aid from social service providers, and particularly where those recipients are located, is expected to improve this fall when a new Geographic Information System program is rolled out.
  • A proposed Encinitas city ordinance regarding shopping cart ownership is being put together by city employees and will be coming forward for council approval.

City Manager Pamela Antil said the proposed ordinance will spell out that retail establishments own their shopping carts and that they’re responsible for collecting them when someone takes them off-site and abandons them. It will also make it “very clear that it’s not legal (for people) to take them and use them for other purposes” than shopping at the retail centers, she said.
The Aug. 23 meeting was the second “informational update” on the goals of the city’s Homeless Action Plan. The first meeting was held in April.

Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth Wells described how his department’s Community-Oriented Policing and Problem-Solving (COPPS) unit works with area agencies to provide assistance to unhoused people. “I’m familiar with most of the people in this room — we’ve all met, we’ve all worked together,” Wells said.

Christina Harper, representing the McAlister Institute, discussed how the institute has helped homeless people obtain treatment for substance abuse or alcohol addiction, and assisted with their housing needs. Housing aid can range from form-filling-out assistance for motel vouchers to help contacting long-lost relatives and bus tickets to get to those relatives’ homes, she said.

Jewish Family Services’ Safe Parking Program, which provides 25 overnight parking spots for people who are living temporarily in their vehicles, now offers on-site medical services, including dental checkups, at its lot at the Encinitas Senior & Community Center, a representative said. Program support staff also help people find car repair services and help them establish bank accounts. It has served 161 people since February 2021, with 72 of them age 55 or older.

Tamara Kohler, chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness, told the council that her federally-funded, somewhat “behind-the-scenes” organization provides money for many homeless programs in Encinitas, including the Safe Parking Program. It also collects statistics on the region’s homeless population.

Kohler said task force data indicate that homeless programs serving veterans are fairly well financed, but ones for first-time homeless people could use more money, so the organization is starting to shift funding in that direction. Black San Diego residents also appear to be “over-represented” in the homeless population, “so we’re putting some very intentional funding there,” she added.

City Council members asked whether homeless people who refuse assistance are tracked by various programs. Wells said deputies and social service workers do track this, adding that just because someone refuses service the first time it’s offered doesn’t mean they will continue to do so. It takes time to build trust, he said.