calif. Attorney General calls out El Cajon over homeless shelter debate

ATTORNEY

EL CAJON, Calif (KGTV) — The ongoing debate over San Diego County’s hotel voucher program is heating up.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta is now calling out the city of El Cajon for how it’s handling the issue.

The county’s voucher program covers the cost for people experiencing homelessness to temporarily stay at participating hotels while they look for permanent housing.

Earlier this month, the city of El Cajon sent notices to several motels warning they could face fines of up to a thousand dollars a day if they continue to operate as an emergency homeless shelter.

in a statementover the weekend, Bonta the city violated the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

“The City of El Cajon’s recent actions threatens to turn some of San Diego County’s most vulnerable residents out onto the street based solely on their source of income – vouchers provided by the County to cover the cost of temporary housing at local hotels. Let me be clear: Housing discrimination in any form will not be tolerated. The City of El Cajon’s threats to local hotels is a clear violation of the law,” Bonta stated.

“I appreciate the attorney general saying you’re not going to violate every state and federal housing law… not here in California,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

El Cajon leaders claim the county is disproportionately placing too many homeless people in their motels.

“That’s simply not true,” Fletcher said. “95% of these folks are from East County, which is why they stay in East County.”

In an email to ABC 10News, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells called Bonta’s one-sided statement.

The city has since rescinded the notices, but Wells said Bonta’s claim of housing discrimination is false.

He added the county fails to properly screen program participants, which has led to spikes in crime, drug use, and sales at the motels.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells’ full statement:

“I find it interesting that the Attorney General came to conclusions without even talking to the City. Based on his tweet from September 24th that stated our ‘actions threatened to turn the most vulnerable residents out onto the street based solely on their source of income, no more,’ is egregiously false. In the Attorney General’s letter or tweet, there was no mention that the County and its contractor have failed to properly screen participants in the voucher program, which has spikes in crime, increased calls for police and fire service, and increased open drug usage and sales at and around the participating motels. There was also no mention that the El Cajon Police Department has made over 20 arrests near or at the participating motels in just the last ten days. It is obvious that the Attorney General’s office based its findings on a one-sided argument. It is also interesting that the County relocating the homeless from other parts of the region to El Cajon is in direct violation of the very code section of the Attorney General cites. Did the County also receive a letter from the Attorney General?”

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