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El Cajon Residents to a Take Stand for the Homeless

November 9, 2017

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Community members are planning to illegally feed individuals who identify as homeless in the City of El Cajon in the coming weeks in response to an emergency City Council ordinance prohibiting “food sharing” in public places.

The Facebook event titled, “Break the Ban – Feeding the Homeless in El Cajon” is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 19.

“When a law is immoral, it must be rejected,” the post reads. “This ban is a punitive measure under the guise of combating the Hepatitus (sic) A outbreak. Hepatitus (sic) A is not spread by feeding the homeless, it is spread when there are no bathrooms or handwashing facilities for these people.”

The City of El Cajon, on Oct. 24, passed an urgency ordinance prohibiting non-social gatherings that are planned, organized or promoted, which will offer or distribute food at no cost or minimal charge to members of the public, according to a Oct. 27 city press release.

The ordinance also includes making panhandling, sleeping on the sidewalks and encampments, against the law.

According to the January 2017 Regional Task Force on the Homeless count, there were 323 people living on the streets of the City of El Cajon, located in East County.

At the beginning of October, the City launched a campaign named, “Real CHANGE, not Spare Change” to discourage panhandling by installing signs around the city and distributing posters to business owners.

“Panhandling has a very real impact on El Cajon,” an Oct. 9 city press release reads. “It hurts local businesses and jeopardizes the safety of well-intentioned donors (both pedestrians and motorists) as well as panhandlers. Experts have stated that providing spare change to panhandlers does not help those in need. In fact, in many cases, contributing to panhandlers only fuels their addiction or impedes them from seeking help.”

City of El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells linked opioid crisis to hepatitis A outbreak in the city in an Oct. 29 interview with Fox 5.

“Almost all homelessness is linked to drugs or alcohol,” Wells said during the Fox 5 interview.

However, according to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless count of those surveyed, 14 percent surveyed reported struggling with drug abuse and 10 percent with alcohol abuse.

The food-sharing ban is the city’s most recent response to addressing the hepatitis A outbreak in the city, and prior to the ban, the city installed hand washing stations and began power washing the streets with bleach.

The hepatitis A outbreak has caused the death of at least 20 individuals in San Diego County, and homeless individuals are most susceptible to contracting it because they often do not have adequate bathroom facilities or hand washing station access.

The Facebook event, “Break the Ban – Feeding the Homeless in El Cajon,” has raised $483, and is one of two events planned to stand up to the new ordinance.

Endorsers and sponsors include Artful Activist San Diego, Occupy San Diego, Overpass Light Brigade San Diego, United Against Police Terror San Diego, Impeach March San Diego, San Diego Democrats for Equality, Mark Bartlett for Chula Vista City Council, Border X Brewing, and James Ella for State Assembly 71st District, according to the event post.

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