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The County and City of El Cajon can't agree on the hotel voucher program

The County and City of El Cajon can't agree on the hotel voucher program.png
Posted at 4:56 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 02:56:48-04

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) — Back and forth Wednesday between leaders in El Cajon and the County of San Diego over the homeless crisis.

The Mayor of El Cajon, Bill Wells, claims that the county is dumping the homeless into their hotels. But the county says they are not to blame.

At the center of this is the county's hotel voucher program.

The voucher is something that homeless individuals can accept. They then are assigned a case worker and are one step closer to permanent housing.

As far as the hotels, the program is something they have to choose to participate in.

But the City of El Cajon says the amount of people in his city, is just too much.

The City of El Cajon claims that they have been getting more service calls for homeless individuals in hotels, like the Travelodge off West Main.

According to Mayor Wells, the hotel is 100% occupied by voucher program recipients.

"This is an active organized operation by the County to infiltrate El Cajon with a lot of homeless people," he shares during a Wednesday press conference. "And my question is, is this same thing happening in Solana Beach and Encinitas?"

The County says that the answer to that question is no.

But that's because El Cajon has the second highest rate of homelessness behind the City of San Diego. According to the most recent Point in Time Count, the number of homeless individuals in El Cajon increased 69 percent in 2 years.

"So while some people may feel like it might be unfair to have housing there, that really is where the need is," explains Supervisor Joel Anderson, who represents El Cajon.

He furthers, "And you can't turn around and take East County homeless and shift them to the City, and the City shouldn't be shifting them to us. So we have to provide for the homeless in our community."

Supervisor Anderson says while the county is behind the voucher program, it does not force hotels to participate. It is a program that hotels say they want to participate in.

"I don't understand what their issue is," Supervisor Anderson says. "If they don't want hotels participating in the voucher program they can pass an ordinance and do it. And then all of those people will be returned to their communities surrounding El Cajon and in El Cajon."

According to the County, out of the 121 participants staying at 8 El Cajon hotels, 63% are from El Cajon. And if you were to expand it out to all of East County, 94% are local.

El Cajon's City Manager, Graham Mitchell, says that influx is coming from the county's contractor Equus. He believes they are leaving more and more people in their hotels or allowing people to exceed the 28 days of stay and go to a new hotel.

"We have our own problems, we have our own solutions for those problems, but those problems get overwhelmed when the County brings their problems to us."

Supervisor Anderson says that the County of San Diego has not been dumping more people into El Cajon's hotels. He says there has been an increase in El Cajon residents accepting services, about 10 more a week.

The City of El Cajon held a press conference Wednesday morning. The County says that the City did not reach out to them beforehand.

The two parties had a closed meeting Wednesday afternoon to try and come to a solution. ABC10 News tried to get an update on whether or not an agreement was reached. An update had not been given at the time of this publication.


On Friday, County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher shared a statement with ABC 10News, in response to the Mayor of El Cajon's interview: “While our county government is stepping up in a bi-partisan way to clear encampments, launch new shelters and actually get people off the street, the Mayor of El Cajon would rather dishonestly grandstand. The only outcome of his tantrum will be more homeless on the streets of El Cajon.”

On Saturday, ABC 10News followed up with El Cajon's city manager, Graham Mitchell.

Mitchell says the city of El Cajon still feels strongly that the voucher program is unfairly impacting their hotels, and in turn, straining their city resources.

“We’re the one dealing with the calls for service from a 911 perspective both fire and police…we just want to see it more fairly shared throughout the region," he said.

Mitchell says El Cajon is hoping the county will encourage other areas to step up and help share the burden.

“I think it’s just lazy work. I think we’re an easy target. There’s interested motel operators that are willing to participate in the program. I think my message is just do a little better," he said.