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Kathy Esfahani, Chair of the San Clemente Affordable Housing Coalition

San Clemente City Council got something right last week: Councilmembers Duncan, Knoblock and Ferguson voted to renew the lease of a city-owned building to Family Assistance Ministries (FAM) with NO increase in rent.  FAM has operated out of that site for 10 years, preventing families from becoming homeless and finding help for those without homes.

Frankly, it was baffling to us that Mayor James and Councilmember Ward opposed the lease extension. Subsidizing the lease of a city building to a local nonprofit so it can continue serving San Clemente’s poorest residents should have been an easy “yes.” After all, our city does so little to meet the needs of its residents who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness.

The 2022 Point in Time Count showed there are at least 81 unsheltered people living on the streets of San Clemente. Yet, our city has no emergency shelter, no program for getting unhoused people into long-term motel stays, no “safe parking” area for those lucky enough to have a car to sleep in. By contrast, Laguna Beach and Costa Mesa each have a homeless shelter, and San Juan Capistrano recently donated city-owned property to be used as the site of a permanent supportive housing development.

While San Clemente waits and aches for the affordable housing and permanent supportive housing that can solve homelessness, we can do a few things NOW to ease the suffering of our unhoused residents, like providing a safe, decent place to set up camp or sleep in your car un-harassed, and a place to wash clothes, charge phones, receive mail, and store belongings.

Supporting FAM was crucial, but San Clemente can and should do so much more to help our neighbors in need, particularly those with nowhere to sleep tonight.

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