Shoreline Community Services is helping unsheltered individuals and families in the central beach area including Pacific Beach by helping fulfill their unmet needs, one person or family, at a time.
“They (unsheltered) are interwoven into the fabric of our community: That’s just a fact,” said Caryn Blanton, a SCS volunteer and board member. “Are we going to treat them like dirt? Or give them dignity and respect or care?”
Added Blanton: “We can fix this. We can, together, make a big change. We’re starting to make a dent. Things are starting to happen. We’re going to make a difference. We’re going to keep plowing forward.”
The goal of SCS with its nine-member board is to help provide for the health and financial needs of the unsheltered. Ultimately, the objective, besides taking care of their personal needs, is to transition the unhoused off the street and into permanent housing.
“We’re not a service provider,” said Blanton. “We connect with other providers.”
SCS also approaches aiding the homeless differently.
“We talk about relief versus development services,” pointed out Blanton. “Relief services (food, hygiene items) go around and around… you get what you (immediately) need, but you’re not moving up and out. If you mix in development services (housing, drug/domestic abuse treatment, employment) with relief services, then people go up, and out, moving somewhere.”
Blanton added aiding the homeless is accomplished, initially, through providing meal services to them. “We learn their names there, their stories,” she said. “That’s where we engage and connect with people. If we stopped doing that, they’d scatter and we would never be able to get them what they need.”
SCS’s strategy for transitioning the unsheltered:
Determine their most pressing challenges;
Find the solutions to those challenges;
Identify and organize community members who can assist;
Facilitate the execution of the solution.
SCS fills aid gaps to the unsheltered by working with other groups that offer them meals, services and access to housing options. SCS partners with a growing number of organizations and businesses as well as numerous local churches. Those include Pacific Beach United Methodist Church, Christ Lutheran Church, St. Brigid’s Parish, St. Andrew’s By the Sea Episcopal Church, Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, and Pacific Beach Christian Church.
SCS helps provide services to more than 300 needy individuals weekly. It also continues a long-standing working association with the UC San Diego Student-run Free Clinic and the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine offering medical, dental, and acupuncture services to more than 75 unsheltered individuals and families every week.
SCS also works collaboratively with high-profile civic groups Discover PB, beautiful PB, the Pacific Beach Town Council, Duwara Consciousness Foundation, District 2/City of San Diego, and the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club.
SCS has deep roots in the PB community going back about 20 years, said Blanton, noting the group earned nonprofit status in 2015.
With a strong background in community development, Blanton discussed how she conceived of, and implemented, the PB Street Guardians program, which for three years hired the unhoused to do community clean-up and beautification in PB.
“I went for daily walks with my dog and became friendly with some of the unhoused,” she said. “I remember walking the day after July 4th and it was a disaster and I thought, ‘Who’s going to take care of this?’”
It was then it occurred to her there was plenty of unsheltered looking for a hand up. So she organized unsheltered work crews to “cruise around picking up garbage.” That led to contracting with Discover PB and the ultimate creation of the street guardians.
Where SCS is unique in its approach to helping the unsheltered is its focus said Blanton on “engaging the whole community in helping out so it’s not just us doing it. Shoreline is the community. Here at the beach, there are no services to speak of. If you are unhoused, there is nowhere to go. No mental health clinics. No addiction or abuse services. No place to get an i.d., a voucher or a bus pass. Our volunteers are trained to be mentors, helping the unsheltered get what they need.”
Blanton said SCS’s top priority is helping the community’s most vulnerable. Right now, that’s its unhoused population, especially the elderly. She estimated the PB-La Jolla area’s current unsheltered population numbers between 300 and 400.
“It’s a lone wolf society,” she said of the unsheltered. “You’re on your own. There’s lots of crime against each other. Women, especially older women, are very vulnerable. If the right thing (employment, housing) comes along… when they’re ready, we can move people (up and out). With some, it’s quicker than others. It’s a process.”
Concluded Blanton: “We need volunteers to make that happen. We’re hoping to engage the community in solving the problem.”
Want to help? Visit shorelinecs.org to volunteer.