A homeless shelter running in a church will stay open despite an order from the city to close.
The city gave the shelter until Monday to cease operations, said Patrick Richardson, a Temecula city planner.
The shelter had permission to operate during the rainy season. Now that the rain stopped, its permission expired, Richardson said.
The shelter, at Fusion Church, 29385 Rancho California Rd, will stay open for at least another week, and perhaps several, said Anne Unmacht, the head of Project TOUCH, a nonprofit effort to feed and house the homeless.
“We can’t just turn people out into the street with no place to go,” she said.
The fine will run $50 if the shelter stays open past Monday. The fine will go up to $150 the next week, it will go up to $250 for the next week and it will cost $1,000 for each day it operates after that, Richardson said.
In order to stay open, the organization would need to take several costly steps. First, it would need a conditional use permit, which costs $5,000. To get this permit, the building would need to be modified significantly, including getting a fire sprinkler system, a kitchen and a shower.
It would also need an environmental impact report, which ranges in cost from $6,000 to $50,000.
“It’s a health and safety issue. That building’s not built to house 40 to 50 people,” Richardson said. “The city has a responsibility to make sure people are safe.”
“They’ll all be out on the street”
These requirements have some people angry at the city. “I think it’s horrible, it’s sad, it’s a great thing we have going on,” said Caroline Turnure, a volunteer at the shelter. “Without this, they’ll all be out on the street.”
Some thought the city should extend the closedown deadline. “There should be some compassion and love from the City Council,” said Laura Newman, who comes to the shelter occasionally for dinner, though she lives in a nearby abandoned house with no electricity or running water. “If any place, this place should have an extension.”
If the city closes the shelter, some wondered how the city planned to help the clients. “I think the city’s plan is to get a plan,” said Patrick Schmidt, the CEO of FF&F Enterprises who spoke at a gathering outside the shelter on Friday. “But does it include tomorrow night?”
How many homeless?
City officials think too few homeless people live in Temecula to warrant investing millions of dollars in a shelter.
A recent census of homeless people showed fewer that 50 homeless people live in Temecula, Richardson said.
The county conducted the census by coupling a counter with a homeless person, whose job was to take the census taker to where the homeless people live.
On the morning of the census, the city sent bulldozers to a large homeless encampment south of Temecula Parkway west of Interstate 15 and cleared away their camps.
The several dozen people living there scattered, according to some of the former residents.
The city did this because a big storm was on the way, and the camp was dangerously close to Murrieta Creek, Richardson said. “We had the wettest rainy season on record for the past 10 years,” he said.
Regardless of the reason, the census is probably not accurate, Unmacht said. She counted at least 130 people coming to her shelter since she moved to the Rancho Community Church in January.
Bombarded with calls
For the people living in the shelter, the need is dire, Unmacht said. “We’re still getting bombarded with calls and people showing up everyday.”
The shelter’s clients include 18-year-olds emancipated from the foster care system, battered women and people whose unemployment ran out, she said.
Miel Paschal, 21, and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jeremy Garrison came to Temecula from Dayton, Ohio, with her father on a job hunt.
When work failed to turn up and they had no place to go, all three turned to the shelter.
“We just want to get on our feet,” said Paschal, who is seven months pregnant.
Despite the order to close, Unmacht has hope something – maybe a miracle – will happen. “I’m hoping we can work something out with the city,” Unmacht said. “I’m just hoping doors will open there to keep the doors open here.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong location for the homeless shelter. It's at 29385 Rancho California Rd.