Robert “Bob” Magee, Lake Elsinore City Councilmember
The spike in homelessness and the increased visibility of the unfortunate byproducts they bring with them exploded as a direct result of changes in California laws. The challenge for local governments was to preserve the quality of life for their taxpayers while ensuring a humane outcome for the tax takers.
In Lake Elsinore, this goal required a united strategy with elected officials forming a task force of engaged stakeholders and bringing in a motivated nonprofit partner. Stakeholders included the business community, faith-based organizations, the sheriff’s department, code enforcement, public works, nonprofits and behavioral health. Once established, our Homeless Task Force, working with our partner, the Social Work Action Group, helped the community move forward with a philosophy of responsible compassion: “a hand up, not a handout.” And it has worked.
The recently released 2020 Point in Time Homeless Count numbers show that Lake Elsinore has reduced the number of people living on our streets year over year by 24%. It is indeed a success story. Those in need are offered assistance; be it food, shelter or counseling and are given a pathway back to re-enter society. There will be stumbles along the way, but the safety net is strong in Lake Elsinore, stitched together with hope and love and a promise of better days ahead for all.
But there is also a firm commitment to law and order and the rights of our residents and business owners to live in a clean and safe community. It is why we have dedicated ourselves to cleaning up the remnants of homeless camps as soon as we find them, proactively enforcing trespassing laws and arresting those who chose to reject our help while perpetrating crime. Our message is clear; if you break the law in Lake Elsinore, there will be consequences.
Our plan is working, but it does come at a price. And while we cannot end homelessness, we can work to reduce its impacts and end the cycle of hopelessness so many find themselves stuck in. As we move forward, our city will continue to invest in improving the quality of life of everyone in our valley. Our work is not done, but we are clearly on the right path.