Council Demands Adjustment to Santee Homeless Count

Santee's "Point-In-Time" homeless count jumped about 260 percent in 2011, the council disagrees with that number and wants it changed.

The about the came to a head Wednesday night, including veiled threats of legal action by the City, when the man in charge of the countywide homeless count and the Santee City Council butted heads at the .

Last week, sent a letter to , the Executive Director of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH), which performs San Diego County's annual homeless count, and breaks down the numbers by city. This year's count found 58 homeless in Santee and Voepel vehemently disagrees with that number.

The one letter became a series of letters, which culminated in Callstrom appearing before the council to explain how the RTFH reached that number, basically to defend it.

The count supplies officials with information they can use when applying for federal funds to aid the homeless population, and is mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Known as the "," it is a tally of the number of people sleeping on the streets and beaches, in parks, riverbeds, canyons and other outdoor places, as well as shelters, transitional housing and motels. They use a formula for determining how many homeless people are in a given shelter, something along the lines of "two people are assumed per car that is counted."

The use of a formula to determine the homeless count is what Voepel is upset about. He does not believe it is accurate.

In the original email exchange with Callstrom, Voepel summed up the dominate viewpoint of the City Council: "Santee has ALWAYS had 12-15 homeless people (mostly in the River Bottom), this is collaborated by the Sheriff's Department. For you to raise our count to 58, either reflects poor counting methods or cheating. Change your count to reflect reality sir."

Callstrom stood his ground during the meeting, defending the number, but always in a congenial manner, appreciative that the Council was interested in discussing the homeless issue. He did offer that the RTFH could possibly clarify the numbers to communicate that during the count 39 homeless were actually seen, but due to the formula that is used, the count is set at 58.

It is unclear if that would pacify the Council.

"We understand the desire and belief to lower the count. However, we have reconfirmed the data that was reported to us. It would be inappropriate for us to alter what was reported to us. We have to agree to disagree on this one," wrote Callstrom in an email on Thursday.

Voepel laid out a measure which would have the City Council send an official letter to RTFH asking that they change the count. He later added that he plans to ask the Council to move forward with legal action if the count isn't adjusted.

The final vote was 3-1 approving the measure, with , and Voepel voting in favor, voting against and not in attendance.

"Think of Santee as Mayberry. There are no homeless sleeping in their cars on Santee streets, would get them," said Mayor Randy Voepel.

In addition to Callstrom, Lisa Hopewell, the Director of the , and Pat and Tom Leslie spoke before council as members of the public active in homeless outreach in Santee with anecdotal evidence to support a rise in homelessness in Santee (see video of public speakers, Callstrom and Councilmembers speaking on the issue in the media box).

"640,000 Californians lost their homes in the last three years, and one in three homeowners in San Diego County are upside-down on their mortgage, said Pat Leslie. "In the times when we have these types of changes it's not unusual to see families and couples temporarily living in their vehicles in our community..."

During the meeting, Callstrom stressed that there was a basic misunderstanding at the root of the disagreement. The Point-In-Time Count is a number that reflects how many homeless were in an area in a certain four hour period, which is different from the number of "full time" homeless that reside in Santee, the number that the Council is referring to, he said.

Callstrom wrote: "It's time to move on from this year's count and focus on what we can do day to day to address who is currently homeless - to prevent, alleviate, and work towards solutions - that where the conversation needs to go."

A report on the rest of the will be published on Friday.

mike April 29, 2011 at 02:33 PM
why wont the city council put on there good walking shoes and do a count for them selfs and us alike if the problem is on the upswing we should be posed to do somthing about it,not just say we have this number and they have this number and do nothing at all or say no-no- thats too much , this is about peoples lifes and the mess that they have become, dont assume that they want to live like this,they should at least have a choice...
Motivated Santee Citizen April 30, 2011 at 05:41 AM
There is a white motorhome that is owned by a homeless gentleman at Mast Park every day. He has two or more other homeless people with him most of the time. There are more homeless living in the river bottom than people think. Will the reality of the actual number of homeless in Santee, not the City Council's unrealistic number tarnish the image of the Mayor's "La Jolla of the east county"? Speaking of motorhomes, with all of the motorhomes parked just anywhere they want on any city street for months at a time or longer, how would the city council know if there are people living in some of these motorhomes or not? No one ever seems to check or cite any of these motorhomes. We could have an entire homeless subculture living in motorhomes on our Santee city streets and we would not even know it. It amazes me what is and is not important to the city council. Frustrated Santee Citizen!
Bill Howell May 01, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Granted, the homeless situation in America is appalling. We all know what the causes and issues are. We've had the issue since the Depression with hobos riding the trains, etc. However, no city wants the reputation for being a haven for, or being inundated with homeless folks. The Santee city "fathers" have worked very hard over many years to earn a positive reputation for our city to be an attractive place to live, raise children, and work. However, to have an outside organization which would benefit by reporting high numbers come into our city, and in a four hour "snapshot" decide that we are all of a sudden the haven for a 216% increase in homelessness is disingenuous and inaccurate. God Bless the folks who are helping out at the Food Bank and other organizations, but let us not make the problem bigger than it is, nor criticize our city officials and blame them. It is a simple matter to get an RV moved by calling the Sheriff. My experience has been that they respond the same day with a CSO marking the vehicle and notifying the owner of the 72 hour parking limit. Citizens should not encourage the homeless to remain in their state by giving alms to a panhandler. This just encourages a trip to the liquor store and continues the problem. If you feel you must help, give them a gift certificate to a food handling establishment nearby. Let us not blow this situation out of proportion. We have many other issues to address.
mike May 02, 2011 at 03:08 AM
the mayor says there are NO people sleeping in there cars or the sheriff would get them? and do what take the cars away from them?there are many people that sleep in there cars in santee they just go to private parking lota and sleep,off the streets still homeless.i dont think the problem with homelessness is the person on the street its how we respond to them and treat them there are tens of thousands of homeless now in japan do they just ignore them or try to help them?do they help them because they are used to comfort and warmth or because its the right thing to do,a MAYOR is supposed to reflect our way of thinking and our values is this how santee really want our people treated?
Motivated Santee Citizen May 03, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Mr. Howell, I have spoken personally with Sheriff's deputies and even more CSOs about specific motorhomes, boats, etc. I only saw one boat move weeks later and it was probably because they took it down to the water. There is a boat on Pennywood with 2x4s holding it up in the air at an extreme angle so, as I was told by a CSO "the water can drain out of it". This boat has been like this in the exact same spot for 6 months. It is as I explained to the CSO a danger to children if they play under it and knock the board out holding it up. I have also spoken to the city council about all of these motorhomes around and never moving, some with people living in them or being used as hotel rooms for guests or extra rooms for the housing requirements of the particular house they are parked in front of, complete with power cords running from the house to the rv or trailer. I also know of some RVs around that do house homeless people. This all fell on deaf ears with the city council. Don't kid yourself, there are more homeless and criminal type people around Santee than you want to believe.
Motivated Santee Citizen May 03, 2011 at 08:58 PM
Mike, This is for Mike above, The Mayor does not care what the majority of Santee residents want in their city. Remember the fiasco with the water ski park at Santee Lakes? Huge amounts of Santee residents were vehimently opposed to having it here including me and what does the Mayor and the majority of the city council do but vote in favor of puting it here even though the majority did not want it here. Need I say more? Actions speaks volumes louder than words!
Bill Howell May 03, 2011 at 09:39 PM
Motivated: You should take a photo of the boat or RV, call the station, and register an inquiry with the CSO or deputy's Sergeant. The vehicle should be marked with chalk on the tire and the street and a warning left on it that unless moved in 72 hours, it will be considered abandoned and impounded at the owner's expense. I"ve never had a problem with rapid response, the marking of the vehicle, and it's movement. Perhaps honey attracts more bees? Bill
Bill Howell May 03, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Mike and Motivated both: If the mayor bothers you so much, run for the office yourself or support a candidate who is going to run against him. That's how we do things here. As far as the Japanese homeless problem: you are comparing apples and oranges. We have drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally unstable and economically challenged homeless. They have victims of a natural disaster such as Katrina. Bill
Motivated Santee Citizen May 04, 2011 at 07:57 AM
Bill, The Mayor and city council bother more than just us from what people tell me. I could not have been any nicer or patient regarding my bringing these issues to the attention of the sheriff's dept. I guess I will need to have a one on one sitdown with the Captain of the sub. I always give people a chance to just simply do their job. They usually mistake my kindness for weakness and blow me off as in this case. At that point I have no choice to get firm with them and then they think I am an A-hole. They are wrong for feeling that way, but you can't teach people that don't want to learn anything. By the way; If I were Mayor I would be loved by 75% of the citizens and hated by the other 25%. I can clean house with the best of them. Oh, another on topic point. I was told that there was a HOMELESS guy living up on that hill that caught on fire today that you could see from all over town up on Carlton Hills Blvd and that his propane tanked exploded in the fire. I guess there really are more homeless around then the Mayor thinks. I bet he was not counted as it would be a pretty good hike up to where he was living. Maybe the count should be revised to 59?
mike May 04, 2011 at 08:58 AM
hey there motivated you run and i'll vote for you!!!
Motivated Santee Citizen May 05, 2011 at 04:58 AM
Thank you Mike, I would love nothing better if politics were not so ugly, backstabbing, lieing, etc, etc. I would want to just come in and fix things no matter how difficult that may be or who it may piss off. Nothing more, nothing less. I am a very hands on kind of person. I would actually walk my city and know the issues first hand.
Bill Howell May 05, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Revising the count: Leslie's quote in today's UT is priceless. He thinks we should count "couch surfers". That's the attitude which gave us an inflated number. No volunteer wants to report back into headquarters after the "count" and say that they had not found anyone.


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