Residents in Escondido, California are facing imminent eviction after their property was foreclosed and bought by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. On June 6 dozens of community members called and emailed Escondido mayor Paul McNamara to demand that the eviction be stopped or the city intervene to ensure that the residents do not end up homeless.
McNamara responded by claiming that “outreach teams had been visiting the property two to three times a week [since April] to assist these occupants in getting connected to benefits, housing and programs that offer a higher level of care.” Organizers with the Party for Socialism and Liberation have been visiting the property to deliver water since April and had never seen or heard of such outreach teams.
Liberation News asked one of the residents if any outreach teams provided them with assistance or housing alternatives: “Zero. The only outreach team was Interfaith, who took Terry (one of the residents) to a 72 hour hold at a mental facility. I asked for assistance with my trailer and if there was help with vet stuff for the puppies as well. All they did was sign me up for food stamps. You guys have helped us way more just with water.”
The mayor and city have not provided the residents with alternative housing options. Yet, McNamara further claimed, “There does not appear to be any effort by these individuals to take advantage of this outreach.”
Furthermore, many of the residents, such as one named Teresa, have had negative experiences with police “homeless outreach teams” in the past. “They’re nothing nice, y’know? They act like they’re helping, but it’s like harassment. They kick us out of spots, give us tickets,” Teresa told Liberation News.
The PSL and other community organizations first heard of this situation through reports by CBS8 demonizing the residents and labeling them “squatters,” depicting them as a nuisance and a blight on the neighborhood. Additionally, these reports stirred up hate and threats of violence against the residents.
The residents are a community of people that have taken each other in during the pandemic when they had no place to go. Most of them would otherwise be homeless.
“All of these people here are friends. They’re family. And to see them go is really hard.” said resident Karen Cash during a press conference held by the residents and the PSL. Cash continued, “Being homeless doesn’t mean we have a disease. We’re homeless because we’re human beings. It’s too expensive, and it’s hard, it’s really hard. Especially when you don’t have your real family around.”
When asked what she would do if evicted, Cash told Liberation News, “There are shelters but they’re crowded or they’re closed. I won’t go to a shelter because I have dogs. I don’t want to be told when to go to bed or when you have to leave. I’m too old for that. What scares me the most though is dying out here on the streets.”
Teresa expressed how much progress she has made because she has been able to live on the property, “I was able to buy a truck, pay my registration, pay rent. I’ve got my driver’s license after not having it for five years. I’ve made a lot of progress due to being able to stay here.”
The city of Escondido is claiming to provide an alternative to the housing that the residents currently have, but that is not what is happening, there is no assistance being provided. The alternative is homelessness.
With the high demand for shelter beds and rental assistance, it is not a simple matter to get needed benefits. Instead of helping, the city is suing these residents and recently issued a preliminary injunction, bringing them one step closer to eviction.
The truth is, city officials do not care that the residents will end up on the street. In a society driven by profit, housing people is not a priority for the ruling class.
You can support these residents by calling McNamara’s office to demand permanent housing for them or by donating to their GoFundMe.