My Turn with Dean Kellio – There is a better solution to the homeless dilemma in El Cajon

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City leaders pass ordinance prohibiting the distribution of food to homeless on public property. It would seem El Cajon’s solution to reducing their homeless population is to stop feeding them.

City leaders pass ordinance prohibiting the distribution of food to homeless on public property. It would seem El Cajon’s solution to reducing their homeless population is to stop feeding them.

El Cajon City Mayor, Bill Wells, told the San Diego Union Tribune in an article published Nov. 8, “El Cajon has no interest in harming people.” Wells went on to say, “My opinion is it is a public health crisis. What have there been, 20 deaths? That’s a public health crisis. These are people’s lives we’re talking about. The homeless people are the ones we’re protecting more than anyone.”

Earlier in the year, in an article published March 6, Wells was quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune saying, “I’m tired of pussyfooting around” concerning the transient and homeless population who live in the city that he manages. Speaking specifically about Wells Park he went on to say, “This is the place that’s most problematic in the city. We have homelessness, drug abuse, drug sales and prostitution.”

In an article for the San Diego Union Tribune published Nov. 19, it said, “In October, the El Cajon City Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance prohibiting food distribution on any city-owned property, as a way to protect the public from hepatitis A.”

It appears that Wells along with El Cajon’s City Council are attempting to cut off aid to the homeless while not offering any alternative solutions to ease or eventually solve El Cajon’s ever growing homeless population.

 Making laws that ban the feeding of homeless people on city owned land seems counterproductive if your goal is to protect homeless people who are living out on your city’s streets. I can understand Mayor Wells’ desire to give his city a “clean” appearance, but I what I can’t understand is why he is doing it in a way that is sure to have adverse effect to the health and safety of El Cajon’s homeless men, women and children. 

Churches have always had in-house programs to feed homeless families and will continue to do just that. However, now they are being forced by El Cajon’s elected leaders to move their efforts to private property like church parking lots. Passing this so called “temporary” ordinance banning aid to the homeless appears to be an attempt to clear out public property like our public parks while discriminating against the less fortunate. This is a bad decision that needs to be addressed immediately and the ordinance repealed. 

There is a better a solution. What Wells and El Cajon’s City Council need to do is build new infrastructure while supporting existing infrastructure that is already in place helping to feed the hungry, house the homeless and protect men, woman and children who are living out on our streets.

Mary Case, former director of Father Joes’ Village, now runs Crisis House in El Cajon. She is a brilliant woman who has the experience that El Cajon needs to solve the homeless problem. I have personally toured Father Joes’ Village, located in San Diego and have seen firsthand a well run, complete program dedicated to helping people get off the streets and back on their feet.   

The homeless are people; they are the public made up of men, women and children who need our help rather than handcuffs and a cold jail cell. It’s absolutely shameful for the city of El Cajon to try and clean the outside of the cup while the inside remains filthy. 

It’s our cities’ responsibility to build safe places where the homeless can have temporary shelter, restrooms and showers. Many who find themselves without homes or jobs need mental support through counseling as well as access to medical and dental care. They need access to programs that provide informational classes on life skills where they can discover avenues to temporary and permanent job placement.  I’m encouraging you to send a letter to Mayor Bill Wells C/O the City of El Cajon and tell him what you think. 

 

Dean Kellio

Faith Columnist

The East County Californian 

Senior Pastor

Oakzanita Springs Fellowship

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