Mayor of El Cajon accuses county of ‘dumping’ homeless people into city motels – NBC 7 San Diego

El Cajon’s elected leaders on Wednesday called out the county government for “throwing” homeless people in their community’s motels, a claim that county officials are misinformed and harmful.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and City Manager Graham Mitchell held a news conference outside a motel in the East County town on Wednesday morning to outline changes to calls to public safety services around of some of its motels. They said the increase in calls to police and emergency medical services was how the city first learned of what they claimed was an increase in use of the motel voucher program.

“Not only have we noticed an increase in crime and the need for medical interventions around some of these motels, but our police officers have started noticing new homeless people, as well as drug dealers who are going after to them and open drug use,” Mitchell said.

Of the 703 occupied rooms last Saturday night, 26% — or 185 rooms — were occupied by someone using a homeless motel voucher, according to data collected by the city last weekend. Two motels, according to El Cajon executives, were 100% occupied by people using county motel vouchers.

“It’s very frustrating that the county never bothered to let us know about the use of El Cajon motels as homeless shelters,” Wells said. “I wonder if El Cajon is the only town the county dumps its homeless into or are they evenly spread out in places like Del Mar and La Jolla?”

Two county supervisors said the claims were misleading and that El Cajon needed to do its part in addressing the homelessness crisis.

“The Board of Overseers is taking action in a bipartisan way to do the hard work of getting people off the streets and into permanent housing,” said board chairman Nathan Fletcher. “Mayor Bill Wells and the town of El Cajon want to push them back to the streets. The public expects us to act and El Cajon is playing a tired old blame game that does nothing to solve the homeless problem. shelter in our region.

“We’re ready to work with anyone who’s willing to do the hard work of getting people off the streets, but won’t be deterred or distracted by those who try to push us back,” Fletcher continued.

Vouchers come with services and case management, depending on the county. 30% of people leaving the voucher program are moved to permanent housing, officials said. Of the 121 people using vouchers at hotels and motels in El Cajon, approximately 64% are from El Cajon and approximately 94% are from East County.

“To say that the county is secretly using El Cajon as a dumping ground is a mistake,” said supervisor Joel Anderson, who represents El Cajon. “Going forward, I think our common constituents would be better served if we worked together, rather than through press conferences.”

Wells and Mitchell dispute the county’s arguments, saying that even without these makeshift shelters, El Cajon provides more homeless shelter beds per capita than any other city in the county.

Mitchell described what he called the dangerous conditions of the motels after visiting one on a Monday morning.

“I was shocked to see one of the motel tenants sitting out front with a rolled up dollar bill about to snort drugs,” he said. “Another man was coming off fentanyl; he didn’t look well. As I was about to call 911 because he was about to pass out, a drug dealer told me to m ‘Mind my own business. I was told to ‘take the f– out or I’m going to beat you. That was my cue to leave.”

However, the county says hotel and motel owners voluntarily choose to participate in the voucher program.

“It is not for the county to tell businesses in the city of El Cajon how they should operate or with whom to conduct business, nor for the county to manage law enforcement in the city of El Cajon,” says a statement from the county. “If the voucher program no longer aligns with the city’s commitment to solving homelessness from a regional approach, we have full confidence in their ability to find solutions – and in their police department. to keep El Cajon residents safe.”