Homeless shelter operations get green light in Murrieta

Murrieta took the lead among southwest Riverside County cities Tuesday night by opening the door for one or more emergency homeless shelters to operate through March 31 if the operators submit plans that detail how they will function.

The unanimous City Council decision came after about four hours of discussion and debate over how to tackle a growing need that had not been addressed in the region until a Murrieta church and a homeless advocacy group teamed up to open an unauthorized shelter on Jan. 17.

“This is, in many regards, an experiment, and it’s not perfect,” said City Councilman Rick Gibbs, who made the motion that declared a “shelter crisis” and set the stage for Grace of Temecula Valley Church to possibly continue hosting a fledgling shelter through the remainder of the rainy season.

The operation of that shelter and perhaps some similar church efforts, said Gibbs and other council members, could set the stage for a regional airing of homeless issues and a unified approach on how to deal with the problem in the future.

“There has to be a coalition,” Councilman Randon Lane said at one point in the discussion. “If we try to do it without the county and the surrounding cities, it will fail. We need to work together on (forming) that coalition to make it successful.”

Lane attended both meetings on the issue and was part of a group that recently toured a Vista homeless shelter to gather information.

Murrieta officials said either of a pair of regional groups – the Western Riverside Council of Governments or the newly-formed Southwest Cities Coalition – could be the best forum for a future homelessness discussion.

The city resolution identifies steps that Grace church and possibly other congregations would need to take to operate an emergency shelter. Those steps – which give City Manager Rick Dudley considerable oversight powers – include conforming to site management and operational procedures.

The council session included remarks from about 11 homeless advocates and officials from Grace church and Project TOUCH, a regional nonprofit that provides homeless advocacy and assistance services. At least two of the speakers said they are currently homeless.

Many of those speakers appealed to the council to allow Grace church to continue operating its shelter despite organizers’ failure thus far to obtain a temporary use permit.

Anne Unmacht, president and founder of Project Touch, said a loose-knit group of volunteers and churches had no intention to be “combative.” Instead they “reacted as Christians” by taking unprecedented steps to house and help those in need.

“That’s what we are – healers,” Unmacht told the council. She echoed other speakers’ remarks that the problem must be addressed regionally.

“It’s not just Murrieta’s issue, it’s a southwest issue,” she said.

Risa Maxey, whose husband is the pastor at Grace church, noted that members of her congregation and scores of other volunteers felt compelled to provide the first emergency shelter in a vast swath outside the periphery of such facilities in the Hemet, Riverside, Corona and Moreno Valley areas.

“Our intent was not to break any laws,” she said in emotion-laced remarks. “It rained and we opened the doors. If we’re wrong, we’re sorry.”

Much of the council discussion centered around the varying estimates of how many Murrieta residents are homeless and whether someone who was homeless when he or she arrived in the city can rightfully be considered a resident.

There are about 3,343 homeless county residents, according to a county “action plan” crafted for the current fiscal year. Of that figure, about 612 homeless people typically find one type of shelter or another. There are 1,003 “chronically homeless” people on any given day in the county, the report said.

Murrieta-area homeless estimates obtained from the county and area churches, nonprofits and the local school district ranged from five to 38.

“It is a very difficult number to obtain,” Mary E. Lanier, Murrieta’s community development director, said in her presentation to the council.

In her remarks, Maxey noted that a recent night at the shelter attracted 15 men and four women. They were separated by gender in different sections of the facility.

Shelters that currently operate in the Hemet, Riverside, Moreno Valley and Corona areas together house about 290 people, according to Lanier’s presentation. No homeless shelters have opened in Temecula, Lake Elsinore or other southwest cities despite years of talks.

There are about 295 housing units in those same distant communities that are used to transition homeless people into apartments or other residential arrangements.

A bid that took shape last year to set aside transitional housing units in a partially-constructed Temecula apartment complex was dropped in the face of continued neighborhood opposition and criticism.

A Temecula City Council member and at least one staff representative attended the Jan. 28 homeless discussion. No Temecula council members or upper echelon employees attended the Murrieta meeting Tuesday night or spoke during that session.

In the end, the council agreed that a Murrieta shelter could accept people from neighboring communities.

Gibbs and other council cited anecdotal examples – a massive turnout at a city foreclosure workshop, mushrooming demands at local food pantries and stashed sleeping bags sighted during canyon hikes – to try to determine the extent of area homelessness.

“Who are the homeless?” Gibbs mused aloud at one point. “They are our friends. They are our neighbors.”

He said the recession’s impacts have been felt throughout the area.

“This is continually getting worse and worse and worse,” Gibbs said.

In a candid admission, Councilman Doug McAllister told audience members he was homeless during an economic downturn in the early 1990s. He said he was not forced to live on the street, but instead alternated staying in the back of a retail store and in the homes of friends and family members.

“I know what it’s like,” he told hearing participants and onlookers. “I lost my first family over this.”

10 Responses to "Homeless shelter operations get green light in Murrieta"

  1. greenlantern   February 6, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    It is a good cause and a bad idea. It is one thing to offer shelter to our neighbors and friends but another to allow outsiders in our shelters. If you go to Hemet, Corona, and Moreno Valley you will see allot of homeless that continue to abuse our neighborhoods. I wish that was the only problem but it is not. You will see undesirables enter into our neighborhoods such as SEX offenders, and drug addicts. Once a shelter is opened it is difficult to close the doors. Property values go down and crime goes up. Good example of this problem is Hemet and once this is approved you will see some of Hemet homeless enter into our city and with that are SEX Offenders……

  2. Robert D Jones   February 7, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I am in favor of someone providing sheltre and help to homeless citizens of our area. Please if you canet me know how to contact the people at Grace of the Valley church.
    Thank you

  3. wake up   February 12, 2010 at 6:05 am

    "East village" 500+ homeless, drug dealing, alcoholic, 290 reg in a 15 block radius decorating the streets of down town san diego with beer cans and shopping carts. Every intersection has a "Homeless vet needs help", or "Anything helps God bless" sign. Making everyday hard working citizens give them money. If that wasn’t just great, then you have to deal with the fact your property in your car and homes becomes a target. NO HOMELESS SHELTER. Crime and homless go hand in hand. 9 out of 10 homeless have been in jail.

  4. Mother of Adam   February 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    If you can’t get a job because you have been in jail, if you have no transportation, where do you go for the help of one step up? To sleep inside, to have a meal. I am a mother of a son in Lk Elsinore, He is on the street, he has no transportation, and he needs help. Is there no one to help?
    He is not a sex offender, he wants to work.

  5. Amnistad_de_Dios   May 11, 2010 at 4:54 am

    My friends,
    Truth is, crime happens everywhere! Homeless people are not all criminals! They are neighbors and friends, living souls who have feelings just like you and I. Truth is, murder happens in some doctors offices, robbery can occur in a dentists chair, holding a "please help, God Bless You" sign can be held up by a false pastor in Church. Truth is, we have all been ugly at some time in our lives, if we ever told our brothers that we hated him, we were guilty of murder until we repented of it, if we ever eyed our neighbors wife we were guilty of covetousness, the law is spiritual. Why do we want to look at homeless people and call them the bad guys? Truth is, many people become homeless on a count of being a victim!
    I think that if there were no such thing as a homeless shelter (not a one in the world), that many more robberies would occur, our houses being broken into just to find somebody needed to make themselves a sandwich. And why would they have to do that? Because they were hungry and nobody cared? It is by the grace of God that we have life to begin with. It is by the grace of God that we are able bodied and able to work for a living. I think we have all ought to be thankful for what we do have. Let’s consider ourselves, and imagine we had something happen that we can not go to work and have no money (car accident, can’t work, widowed, divorced by an abusive partner, theft, lack of jobs due to wal mart buying from China, broken leg, etc.) Just imagine it happened to us and we are now on the street, how would we like our neighbors to respond, do we want them to respond with Love or tell us to get out? Please remember, when we minister to people, we might as well be ministering right to the face of Jesus! Who else do you know that when you do something for somebody else, you might as well be doing it onto them? Our Lord is Cooool!! Yes, let’s stop judging according to appearances. Yes, let’s help those who are in need, just as much as we would want help if it were to happen to ourselves! My friends, please remember we only have one short life and then the judgment, this is our chance to do something for He who gave us life. Please let us remember that it is the way of God to give as we follow his ways and I think it is best to thank God that we have been given an opportunity to do good and to remember that all things good, came from God! Yes, let’s do it out of love!

  6. They Need Us   October 17, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Thank you Amnistad. I agree with everything you siad. The homeless shelters are a need in all comunities. The offenders are in our comunities weather you open a homless shelter or not. They need to know that someone cares so they can make an efort to change. How else can a person get on there feet after they are out in the streets? They need someones help. They need to know that someone cared enough to donate a coat, a blanket, some shoes, jeans, a darn tooth brush and tooth paste and food. Is it so much to ask to donate some needed items to these people in need? We have so much more than other countries we should not even have a homeless situation. It is our human obligation to care for our neighbor. Some people care more about what happens to an animal over what happens to a human with a soul.
    May God bless all efforts made by people that want to help and are helping.

  7. Foster   December 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Jesus said if you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me.

  8. Cloud Strife   March 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Hello. All responses have posed good arguments. How about hearing from someone that is homeless? That is me. I am homeless. No I am not a 290, drug addict, alcoholic, or any of those things. I am a 27 year old male that got stuck on hard times. I lost my job due to financial cuts. Therefore, my rent was not able to be paid so I lost my room I was renting. I have been homeless now in the Murrieta, Temecula area for 3 years now. Everyday looking for a job and everyday getting the same responses. I was at the top of my game as a Manager for a company. They had to make budget cuts. So me among 30 others were cut. Does that make me a criminal? No it doesn’t, just makes me a statistic. I am not a felon, and yet when asked for address on an application i first started to put homeless on a few. I quickly changed to using an old address. Still no work. I tried Labor Ready and that is a joke right now. I understand that most people think homeless are bad people. I must ask you, are people bad, or good? Depends on the individual right? Exactly my point. So before saying that homeless and crime go hand in hand, please consider the fact that there are criminals out there homeless and not. I have tried many things to get out of the situation I have been in. And it seems that everything is failing. I am not sure how to get out of it. However I do know one thing. GOD will be there like He always has to look after me. Thank you for reading.

  9. Staff   March 24, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Cloud Strife…can you contact us at the paper? Either email editor@myvalleynews.com or call 760-723-7319

  10. Karen Eifert   January 26, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Hello, I was wondering who the homeless lady in the photo is. How can I contact Karen Faison? Did she ever live in NYC? Did she have children that went into foster care when she was younger? Possibly a cycle of the homeless. Ms. Faison’s name, age and race match. Even her complexion matches. I can be reached at 757-676-2610 in Norfolk, VA. Thank you. Karen Eifert


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