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2 Agencies Bid to Run Shelter for Homeless

Times Staff Writer

Two well-established North County social service agencies have offered to take on the enormous task of running Oceanside’s new emergency shelter for the homeless.

The Women’s Resource Center of Oceanside and the Escondido-based North County Interfaith Council both filed bids to manage the unusual shelter, which will consist of 15 trailers on the grounds of the San Luis Rey Mission. The deadline for submission of proposals was 4 p.m. Monday.

City housing officials were hoping for more proposals from which to choose, but they were not disappointed with the ones that were submitted. “In my opinion, those are the two best agencies to do this kind of program,” said Oceanside Housing Director Richard Goodman.

The Interfaith Council, a coalition of 57 churches organized in 1979, runs a homeless men’s shelter in Escondido and provides emergency overnight shelter in the parish halls of its member churches. The Women’s Resource Center has a 22-bed shelter for battered women, also established in 1979.

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Proposals to Be Reviewed

The proposals will be reviewed by the city’s Housing Committee, and the contract will be awarded by the Community Development Commission at its Aug. 8 meeting.

“This is a real opportunity for a social service agency,” Goodman said. “We’re kind of handing it to them on a silver platter. Where else could you get a situation like this where the city is going to do the site development and hand them the money to run it?”

But, Goodman acknowledged, the paucity of applicants is probably due to the fact that the $300,000 anted up by the city to operate the shelter will not be sufficient to cover the costs. Goodman estimated that it will take $400,000 to $450,000 to effectively run the innovative program for three years--the duration of the lease on the 22-acre mission site.

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Neither applicant, however, was deterred by the need for extra money or by the fact that its investment would fund a program destined to be shut down after three years.

“The city has made a significant contribution . . . but it can’t be done on the city’s money alone,” said Marva Bledsoe Chriss, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center. Chriss said the Resource Center projected it will take $150,000 a year to run the shelter. If it is awarded the contract, it will contact the county, the United Way and other agencies in search of grants, she said.

“I don’t know what will happen, but I hope the community would get behind the project and support it with their kind hearts and their kind donations, because whoever (runs the shelter) is going to need it,” Chriss said.

Both agencies are banking on the probability that the pilot program will prove successful and will be continued in some fashion even after the lease on the mission land has expired. The proposal submitted by the Interfaith Council includes a “community development” plan, an effort to find a site and develop resources for a permanent shelter.

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“This is desperately needed here,” said Suzanne Stewart Pohlman, Interfaith’s executive director. “There is no place here in the entire North County inland area for homeless families,” she said. “If you grew up in North County and fall upon hard times, you have no recourse other than to go to downtown San Diego or break up the family, which is a terrible thing to do.”

Designed for Families

The Oceanside shelter will consist of 15 trailers situated around a central recreation area and geared for families. Although the program is designed for “intact” families, with both parents present, single adults with at least one child will also qualify. Free housing will be provided for 30 days--up to 60 days in certain situations--along with a variety of social programs to help the homeless get back on their feet.

Both agencies vying for the management of the shelter have the same goal: to teach North County’s homeless families to become contributing members of society.

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“All our projects are developed around the philosophy of building self-sufficiency,” Pohlman said.

The Interfaith proposal includes plans for emergency food distribution, psychological counseling, a budget clinic, a legal clinic, job training and free day care, Pohlman said. English classes will also be provided if needed, she said.

Chriss said the proposal submitted by the Women’s Resource Center will teach homeless families how to work within the system and use existing resources, such as free medical clinics and job-training programs. “It’s better than creating a fantasy environment where everything is done for them,” she said.

“One of our key philosophical points is to try to integrate them with the community at large,” Chriss said. “We do not want to create a subculture out at the shelter.”

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The program will also include a course in “tenant etiquette” and a review of employment histories to identify and correct chronic problems the homeless may have obtaining housing or jobs.

“We will try, in 30 days, to give people all the skills they could possibly need . . . to prevent them from being homeless in the future,” Chriss said.

The shelter, originally scheduled to open in October, is now slated for opening in November or December. The city housing department learned in May that Oceanside was selected to receive $200,000 in federal grant money for a homeless shelter, but the contract--and the money--have not been received yet, Goodman said. Federal regulations prevent them from using the $59,000 in matching funds donated by the city until the grant is received, so site preparations such as grading and laying sewer and water lines for the trailers have been delayed, according to Goodman.


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