Thousands in North County are one paycheck away from homelessness, group says

ESCONDIDO, Calif. – Thousands of people in North County are just one paycheck away from being homeless, according to homeless shelter officials.

Interfaith Community Services in Escondido Executive Director Greg Anglea said his organization and two other emergency homeless housing shelters in North County are now open year-round.  They've doubled their reach to serve more than a thousand people over the course of a year.

“Even now, there aren't enough shelter beds available. Our wait time is about three weeks to get someone in,” Anglea said.

The Bread of Life Emergency Winter Shelter in Oceanside is only emergency winter shelter in North County. It opened a month early and is already booked, according to the shelter's director Tim Yzaguirre.

“We’re seeing double what we saw last year. We get overwhelmed. We literally are daily having to say no to people or having to turn people away,” said Yzaguirre.

“The majority of homeless in North County are the working poor, those that are one paycheck away from landing here and need a leg up," Anglea said. "Almost everyone in this shelter has an income and they often make enough for monthly rent but not enough for first and last month’s rent, plus a deposit."

Michael Hershman is a father of two and was living in a home in Rancho Penasquitos when he had a health emergency. It landed him in the hospital. Medical bills piled up and his paychecks didn't.

Hershman spent five months in the Haven House shelter in Escondido. He was grateful for a roof over his head, but said it was the lowest moment in his life.

Hershman was one of the more than 2,000 people in North County who experienced homelessness on any given night, according to Regional Task Force on the Homeless San Diego officials.

“Anybody can become homeless, and I mean anyone,” said Hershman, adding he was able to get on his feet after the five months. “You get that little push and you’re fine. You can put your life back together, but you need that push."

Last year in North County, the group of shelters successfully ended homelessness for 546 people, which is more people than the entire system served the previous year.