TEMECULA’S UNNECESSARY HOMELESS PROBLEM
by Allen Crow
As you may or may not know, Temecula is now the location of the SW Riverside County homeless shelter. The “temporary inclimate weather” shelter that Project TOUCH opened last winter has gone permanent. There are currently around fifty residents, the large majority of them not from Temecula, but ranging from locales such as Anaheim, Corona, San Diego, Norco, Santa Monica and from as far away as Dayton, OH. The shelter has been operating for over three months without a license or permit, and without any oversight by the City. No one at Project TOUCH is a trained professional. The City has made much of “shutting them down” by citing code violations with fines of $50.00 a week, but that’s only because our new homeless shelter is not in an “ideal location” according to an email from Councilwoman Maryann Edwards.
It seems that secret meetings and plans have been “18 months in the works” to lay the groundwork for our new shelter, and that “it will be the answer to (Maryann’s) prayer”. I wonder where our new shelter will be? Maybe in your neighborhood. Would that be an answer to your prayers? Well, we dont know where it will be, because we’re just the taxpaying, home-owning residents that have to live here. Why not ask the President of Rescue Missions in Tustin? Or the Owner of FFF Enterprises in Temecula? Or the Pastor at Ms. Edwards’ Church? They might know because they have been invited to those meetings with our Councilwoman. When a concerned citizen resident asked to attend this month’s meeting of the Subcommittee on Homelessness, she was told that it was “ad hoc” and could not attend. Another concerned resident has been told repeatedly by the Councilwoman that “we don’t want a homeless shelter in Temecula” and the plan is to locate one “in an unincorporated area along the I-215″. Always off the record, of course.
Anyway, it’s here and you’re going to get used to it. There will be room for over a hundred residents. They will tell us that it’s for local families that are enduring financial hardship, just like Project TOUCH did, but in actuality you’re going to get exactly who lives there now; single men with alcohol and drug addictions, the “chronic homeless” as they are subtly described. And they can be found without too much trouble, if you keep your eyes open.
Of course there must be a public hearing at some point, but like the Mosque debate and others, by the time it gets to the Planning Commission, it’s a done deal, on the way to the predictable 5-0 approval by the Council. But hey, you voted and you’ve got the government you deserve.
From Panhandling to Littering: Temecula’s Homeless Shelter Going Strong by Emerus Cheng
As you may or may not know, back in 2009, a homeless shelter was very close to appearing in a low income housing project in southern Temecula. It was removed from the project by the will of the people of Temecula after it was discovered it was going in without public notice or input.
Once that disappeared, those who want a permanent homeless shelter in our community began operating a “temporary emergency shelter” in Murrieta, and once they were removed from that city, Project TOUCH moved to Temecula, into Mountain View Church until early 2010. Now, they are back with a vengeance. They have a sign, and have dropped the pretense of “temporary” and “emergency”.
Let’s talk about Mountain View Church. Churches are allowed to open their doors for emergency shelter, in the case of rain, freezing temperatures, fires, earthquakes, etc. This is perfectly acceptable, and the right thing to do. On a temporary basis. For emergencies. Hence, the name: temporary emergency shelter.
Project TOUCH is not a church. They own no building. They can provide no care on their own. They have taken over a church that is not theirs, and are using the generosity of that church to operate a homeless shelter daily, rain or shine, and have done so for the past three-plus months, completely against city code. It should also be noted that the volunteer-run organization shelters homeless people from all over southwest Riverside County. Not just the city of Temecula.
A temporary emergency shelter for families who just lost their homes probably would not result in an investigation of panhandling, stealing, and littering. Project TOUCH’s shelter has. A temporary emergency shelter for families probably would not result in discussions of No Trespassing notices being put up around local businesses and on a tent in the bushes next to the shelter. Project TOUCH’s shelter has.
A temporary emergency shelter for families probably would not result in an email from Councilwoman Maryann Edwards to Shawn Nelson, Temecula’s City Manager, telling him that the city can’t have homeless men camping near the shelter so they can get food between drug deals. Project TOUCH’s shelter has.
And in the ultimate double-speak, Maryann wrote to a concerned Temecula resident two days before the above email that she expected the Project TOUCH shelter was NOT operating when the weather was nice. Reading her email to Shawn, it seems she was fully aware of the daily operation. So, which is it, Maryann?
Clearly, city staff and council are aware of the shelter operating daily against city code, without proper facilities like showers to handle long-term “guests”, but that has not stopped them. They are doing so with the quiet blessing of the city, with talk of arrangements and “agreed-upon rules” while ignoring their own laws. Not to mention the $5,000 the city gave to Project TOUCH (a.k.a. God’s Fan Club) through a Community Service Funding Program grant at the February 22 City Council meeting. But why should we expect anything different from our elected Council?
TEMECULA’S HOMELESS SHELTER by Guy Mandude
Did you know that there is a homeless shelter operating in Temecula at the former Mountain View Church on Rancho California Road? Probably not, because everyone involved, including the City Council has been keeping it hidden from you. According to Anne Unmacht, the founder of Project TOUCH, the non-profit organization that operates the shelter, it currently sleeps over 25 people and if she has her way, will have a hundred. Is this what you want in Temecula? You may have no choice.
Last year, Project TOUCH convinced a Church in Murrieta that they were allowed to use their building as a homeless shelter until the City of Murrieta shut that operation down. TOUCH is now in the city of Temecula attempting to do the same thing.
At a public forum, on August 27, 2009, Project TOUCH paraded two underage children in front of a group of over 100 to bolster support for the Summerhouse housing project on Margarita Road. The children were crying as Ms. Unmacht explained that the family was homeless and on the verge of living in Sam Hicks Park. That blatant disregard for the children’s right to privacy, even if parental permission were given, is a gross violation of client confidentiality. No disciplinary action was taken when brought to the City’s attention.
At the February 22, 2011 Temecula City Council meeting, the council awarded a $5000.00 grant to Project TOUCH from the Community Service Funding Program, as they have done in years past. The council was alerted to the unethical practices of this organization that evening. According to the Project TOUCH website, their goal is have a homeless shelter in southwest Riverside County. The website boasts an endorsement by Mayor Pro-Tem Chuck Washington.
Councilman Washington seemed surprised to learn that his name appeared on the website and asked Ms. Unmacht if it were true. She replied that she was not sure. Mr. Washington was asked to abstain from the vote. He sought advice from the Assistant City Attorney, who found no problem with him considering the action. He voted to approve the grant. Regardless of the legality, Mr. Washington should have abstained over the perceived conflict of interest brought forth that evening. At that time however, he chose to endorse the organization, on record, by praising it’s work. By publicly endorsing and allowing his name to be used after the fact illustrates how the council sanctions their actions.
At the meeting of February 22, 2011, the following questions were posed to the council, with no reply offered by either the council or staff and which remain unanswered at the time of this writing.
1. Where is the alleged homeless shelter in the city of Temecula? There were several public speakers that evening who claimed to had visited there. No answer from council or staff.
2. Who authorized the shelter to exist? No answer from council or staff.
3. When was there a public hearing regarding the shelter? No answer from council or staff.
4. Is Project TOUCH qualified to run this alleged shelter? According to the founder, their qualifications stem from a “divine call” to have a shelter in Temecula. They state they are “pure vessels” allowing themselves to help the poor. No answer from council or staff.
5. Are any of their staff a therapist, counselor or case worker? Nothing on their website reflects those services are being provided. No answer from council or staff
6. What is the City’s liability should one of their clients have a psychotic episode causing injury or death to another? No answer from council or staff.
7. Are they insured against such a liability? No response was given by any members of the City Council.
8. Since the City has been funding them, could the City be liable, especially with Mr. Washington’s public, on record endorsement? No answer from council or staff.
Over the past year, the City Council has been made aware of the unethical practices of Project TOUCH. The City of Temecula has been using tax dollars over the past couple of years to help fund that organization. The City Council chooses to turn their back on the questions and concerns of the public. They have allowed an unlicensed shelter to operate without notice or public hearing. This is how tax dollars are being utilized by the City Council, and with no obvious concern over the risk to our city and it’s citizens. The economy of the State of California is tenuous. Our elected officials should be less liberal with taxpayer dollars.