San Diego

New El Cajon Councilman Pushes Controversial Plan to Combat Homelessness

According to the Regional Task Force, in 2016, there were 218 people living on the streets in El Cajon

Homelessness all across San Diego County continues to rise at an alarming rate and El Cajon is one of the cities seeing a spike from previous years.

According to the Regional Task Force, in 2016, there were 218 people living on the streets in El Cajon.

Newly-elected El Cajon Councilmember Ben Kalasho told NBC 7 he has a plan to reduce homelessness in the city. It's certainly a bit outside-the-box.

"It takes out of the box thinking and it takes a proactive, aggressive approach to handle it," Kalasho said.

Under Kalasho’s plan, the city of El Cajon would create 20 jobs for the homeless, including landscape work, removing graffiti and light handyman work. There is also an effort to make it as easy as possible to gain employment.

"We could offer to pick them up, we could offer to pay for the bus passes or trolley passes," Kalasho added.

Kalasho said the program would ban aggressive panhandling across the city. It would also ask liquor stores to not sell to the homeless and take away shopping carts from people living on the streets.

"You do want to become the city where in the homeless community, the chatter amongst them is 'don't go to El Cajon, they'll take their carts'," he said.

The people of El Cajon told NBC 7 they want something done about the homeless issue.

"It seems like everywhere you turn, on more street corners, the park," said longtime resident Tora Idos.

But some aren't sold that the new proposal is the answer and said it may be inhumane.

"I just don’t pay any regard to it, just mind my own business," said El Cajon resident Kelly Boland, when asked about the homeless situation.

The City Council recently opted against the plan and voted for a task force instead.

Councilmember Kalasho, however, said he's not done yet and he believes that a task force is "a little bit weak."

NBC 7 reached out to homeless advocacy groups in El Cajon for a response on the proposal but did not hear back by Friday night.

Councilmember Kalasho is holding a town hall regarding this issue on Thursday, at 7 p.m. at the El Cajon police station.

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