By Andrea Papagianis
Local advocates seized the public comment period at Tuesday’s City Council meeting urging council members to address a lack of resources available to the area’s homeless.
The largest shelter in the area at Capo Beach Church—formerly Capo Beach Calvary—closed its shelter shortly after the city of Dana Point began enforcing a 10-bed zoning restriction, something members of the San Clemente-based iHope, an organization working with the homeless, have asked the City to reassess.
“I am sure you are all compassionate people … and that you too are responsive to the needs of the homeless. I don’t have the answers tonight, but I would ask you to reconsider,” said Joseph O’Connor, a 40 year resident of Dana Point and mortuary director.
O’Connor displayed the death certificate of Brandi Fox, a woman who died in a Capistrano Beach alleyway in February, as proof of the city’s need for a cold-weather emergency shelter.
City Manager Doug Chotkevys said he had also reviewed Fox’s death certificate and found she had died of alcohol poisoning and not as a consequence of homelessness, exposure.
“It’s truly tragic that Ms. Fox lost her battle with her demons and passed away, but I think her issues were much bigger than being homeless,” Chotkevys said.
He said the city tries “desperately” to maintain public safety and asked iHope to better screen their clients. Both Chotkevys and Lt. Lynn Koehmstedt, the chief of Dana Point Police Services, pointed to the recent apprehension of a theft suspect, identified as an iHope client.
“We need to balance our need for compassion with our need for public safety,” Koehmsteadt said.
Chotkevys said he did not know of any churches or organizations applying for a conditional use permit that would allow an emergency shelter to increase to 20 beds.
Steve Stewart, of Dana Point, said the process isn’t as simple as the City Manager made it seem, and accused the city of putting up regulatory roadblocks and leaving calls and emails unanswered.