A Letter To The Mayor

August 23, 2009

Dear Temecula Mayor Edwards and Council Members,

I am opposed to the proposed Summerhouse transitional housing for the homeless/transients. My husband and I lived in Escondido for several years before moving to Temecula in 2000 and know first hand the problems facing the City of Temecula if this program is implemented.

In the 1980’s, the Escondido City Council approved a project to help the homeless/transients, even though the citizens of Escondido were opposed to it. The program was administered by the North County Interfaith Council; their office was located three blocks from my neighborhood. There were many programs implemented along with facilities scattered throughout the city. Strict guidelines were enforced for those who wished to improve their lives with a hand up; not a hand out. Those accepted into the program, were required to sign a contract stating that they would adhere to the strict guidelines and rules of the program. They were warned that, if they broke the rules, they would be asked to leave the program. The program was to be for just San Diego County residents.

In the mid to late 1990’s, I was honored to serve as an Escondido Police Department volunteer, assigned to the COPPS Unit (Community Oriented Police and Problem Solving Unit). By then, the homeless/transient population had grown significantly. Many of the homeless/transients came from Arizona and other counties and cities in California because they had, somehow, heard about Escondido’s program. Many of those people were looking for a hand out and were not accepted into the program. Instead of returning to their homes of origin, many decided to stay in Escondido; that is when things started getting out of hand.

The COPPS Unit began seeing an increase in the number of nuisance complaints from business owners and home owners alike regarding the homeless/transients problem. In the mornings, business owners were discovering feces and urine at the entryways to their businesses and/or the homeless/transients themselves. Homeowners, in the nearby vicinity of the programs housing units, were finding homeless/transients sleeping behind bushes on their property; which was a safety concern for those citizens. Many of the Escondido Police Department’s calls for service were related to alcohol and/or drug abuse problems and assaults within the homeless/transient community itself. This, of course, caused other more urgent calls for service to wait until an officer was free to take those calls.

There was an escalation in panhandling in various shopping centers throughout the city; some of which was very aggressive in nature. I cannot count the number of times I was approached in a parking lot by panhandlers, both male and female trying to intimidate me into giving them money. I will always remember one incident in which an aggressive panhandler had approached two elderly ladies in a parking lot. The ladies were holding onto each other and scared to death of this man. I approached them and told the guy that I was going to call the police and to leave those two ladies alone. He left and I escorted the ladies to their vehicle. This is just one example of many incidents I encountered while living in Escondido due to the huge homeless/transient problem.

Home owners and business owners should not have to deal with the consequences of this type of action. If the city of Temecula feels the need to implement a program such as the Summerhouse transitional housing for the homeless/transients, a location away from residential areas, schools and businesses would be the ideal solution. The city council should be prepared to work closely with the police department to plan on how to deal with the problems that I have outlined that will surely arise in the future in our city.

The Summerhouse project is a very emotional issue for both sides. I am a compassionate person and do not have a problem with communities trying to help those less fortunate. I believe that helping the homeless/transients or others who have fallen on hard times, is a very noble goal! When issues are dealt with from an emotional point of view, though, the realities of the long term ramifications of a project, such as this, are obscured within those emotions.

Being a COPPS Unit volunteer gave me a unique perspective into the problems that go hand-in-hand with programs such as the one in Escondido and the one being proposed for Temecula. I was able to view this situation from both sides of the aisle; as a private citizen and from a law enforcement perspective.

Temecula is a great city and I do not wish to see Escondido’s problems repeated here. Please do not allow our beautiful city to become another Escondido!

Remember, IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME and the problems will follow close behind!!

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One Response to “A Letter To The Mayor”

  1. also left Escondido Says:

    I can do this one better. I worked in the same building that North County Interfaith was located; it was a lot worse than this letter indicates. Whoever wrote this is being polite. The entire block turned onto a slum, literally overnight. All of the reputable businesses left as soon as possible.

    Indeed, they circulated the neighbrhood with claims of ‘We will be GREAT neighbors’. The reality was that drugs, crime, and prostitution followed.

    Fight it Temecula, you don’t want it.

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