New ‘Hotel of Healing’ Planned for Homeless in Escondido, California
The need for spaces to house people experiencing homelessness is at an all-time high. Organizations throughout San Diego County have steered towards purchasing distressed hotels as a way to provide a safe and effective space for people experiencing homelessness.
Interfaith Community Services, serving North County San Diego, is the newest group to purchase a hotel for homeless housing. Their just-acquired property is in a commercial zone in the city of Escondido.
The motel had been listed for sale since 2019, and will soon serve as an expansion of the services Interfaith offers.
Jennifer Kacizak, a former Interfaith client, said those services were essential to getting her off the streets and into housing.
“It’s impossible for people to go from street to something like this or the place I’m at now,” she said.
Kacizak was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago. The physical and financial burden of treatment took a toll on her, causing her to lose her home and job.
“The chemo kinda made me have brain fog a lot, so it was really hard to get a job afterwards or something similar to what I was doing before,” she said. “So I just kind of gave up. I didn’t pay rent, didn’t pay my car, maxed my credit cards, depression pretty much. Being broke because of cancer.”
After losing her home, Kacizak rented an RV in a friend’s yard. When she could no longer afford that, she had no choice but to sleep on the streets.
Kacizak recalled sleeping at the Carlsbad Village transit station to try to escape the temptation of drugs and alcohol that she said were more prevalent in inland North County.
Two weeks before the pandemic hit, Kacizak was able to get two weeks in a hotel shelter program. Because of the pandemic, and because she was considered high risk due to her cancer treatment, those two weeks turned into five months.
Through the “healing hotels” as Kacizak calls them, she was able to get help from an Interfaith case worker who helped her get on the right track to permanent housing.
“It’s amazing they have these programs, and the fact that they’re for people coming out of the hospitals and they can recuperate, I think that’s fantastic,” she said.
CEO of Interfaith Community Services, Greg Anglea, said Kacizak’s case is similar to many of those they encounter and will be able to assist with the help of the newly purchased motel.
“We’re so excited to turn this now empty motel into a place of healing and transformation. We will help people who are exiting hospitals without housing, and we’ll also help people who are on the streets to be able to have a safe place to go while they move forward in their lives,” he said.
Anglea said this project had been in the works for over a year and got delayed by the pandemic. The building was originally listed for $10 million. Because of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, Interfaith was able to negotiate a reduction in purchase price to $8.6 million.
He estimates the total renovations will cost $1.5 million, bringing the total project cost to $10.1 million. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a $6 million grant toward the purchase. The remainder will be funded by donations.
Now that the motel off N. Centre City Parkway is officially theirs, Interfaith will go in to prepare the rooms for program patients.
“There are thousands of people experiencing homelessness on any night in our county. The reality is there are not enough shelter beds, not enough graduate lodging beds or recuperative care beds like what we will provide here,” Anglea said.
Interfaith’s current 32-bed recuperative care center is at capacity. The purchase of the motel will expand recuperative care to 54 total beds and 33 motel rooms for Interfaith program graduates seeking housing.
The trend of purchasing hotels to serve as housing for the homeless has been gaining momentum. The San Diego City Council recently approved the purchase of two hotels to serve as permanent housing, a move that Mayor Kevin Faulconer said is leading California in the right direction.
“By converting these hotels into housing and continuing to navigate folks into other housing, our region will continue to lead the state on solutions to reduce homelessness,” Faulconer said at an Oct. 12 news conference.
Interfaith provides a wide range of programs designed to empower hungry, homeless, and low-income community members to begin a pathway towards self-sufficiency. They provide basic needs and nutrition support, social services, shelters and housing, employment development, youth programs, senior services, veterans programs and addiction recovery support.
The purchase of the motel now means the expansion of services they can provide to people in need in North County.
Anglea said, “Every room here will be helping another person move forward in their lives.”
Tania Thorne is a San Diego native with a passion to tell stories and document the latest news in her community. Fluent in Spanish, Tania has dove deep into the Tijuana border and covered the migrant caravan, immigrant stories of asylum, and human smuggling. She has also done reporting in Europe, Mexico, and Southern California.
Co-published with KPBS.