A group of previously homeless and low-income residents who lived illegally in a foreclosed Escondido home, turning it into a community that other residents decried as an eyesore, was evicted last month when a court ruled they had no legal right to live there, leaving many facing homelessness once again.
The group of six to 10 people, though the exact number was unclear, shared the 2,000-square-foot home on a one-acre dirt lot on West El Norte Parkway in Escondido. Some of them had been living there for more than two years.
The previous owner, Robert E. Donelson, passed away in 2019. His stepdaughter, Terry Bearer, continued to live in the house after Donelson passed and began inviting others to live with her, creating a sort of commune, or as the residents described it – a family.
Most of the residents had some form of income and required each other to contribute financially to things like food and electricity. The ground rules they created included no fighting, no drugs and everyone had to pull their weight.
However, they weren’t paying rent or a mortgage, and the house belonged to the federal government.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development purchased the property in a foreclosure sale, said Baron Tennelle, an attorney representing HUD, after the owner defaulted on their reverse mortgage in September of 2021.
In May 2022, San Diego Judge Robert Longstreth ruled HUD could evict the people living on the property since they were not paying a mortgage or rent, and they had no legal right to be there. The city of Escondido also filed a lawsuit against the residents, citing code violations and attempting to declare the property a public nuisance following regular complaints from neighbors about trash and disturbances.
On July 6, the residents were evicted.
Juliana Musheyev, an activist with the San Diego branch of the Party for Liberation and Socialism, which is helping the residents, told Voice of San Diego many are now homeless and living on the streets; three of them, including Steve Wood, who Voice previously spoke to, are in jail; and a couple of them are living in their trailers.
Teresa Exline is one of the residents who has been living in her trailer. She describes her new life as “hectic” and causing her “constant anxiety.” She told Voice that she gets “harassed” by police officers almost every day and gets yelled at by nearby businessowners even though she remains careful not to park too close to them.
Exline is one of the few from the group who still has a job, but she said she doesn’t earn enough to find a stable place to live.
She said her former housemates have spread out because it was hard for them to stay together, but they keep in touch and help each other when they can.
“I’ve been in contact with every single one of us,” Exline said. “We’ve all already met several times. We kind of touch bases: ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘You need anything?’ ‘No.’ You know, or they park overnight, or we help each other with gas.”
Interfaith Community Services, a homeless outreach organization, has helped the residents with food stamps and similar resources, she said, but the organization’s homeless shelter in Escondido is at capacity, CEO Greg Anglea told The Coast News.
“There’s a big misconception or lack of understanding from people in the community who think if someone is homeless and wants to get help, they could just agree to go to a shelter,” Anglea told The Coast News. “While that may be true in the city of San Diego, which has 2,000 shelter beds, there are only 99 brick-and-mortar shelter beds for more than 1,400 people experiencing homelessness in one night in North San Diego County.”
Exline said she appreciated people at Interfaith, who seem to be doing all they can, but blames the city itself for not having more to offer.
“The services aren’t there, and, despite that, the cops are harassing them,” Mushayev said. “They either need to make it so that it’s possible for them to sleep in their cars or sleep in their tents without the cops harassing them or give them some place to stay.”
Mushayev added that she and other advocates are planning to speak out during the public comment portion of Escondido’s City Council meeting on Aug. 10.
In Other News
- ICYMI: The Escondido City Council last week voted to send a sales tax measure to the November ballot. If approved, the measure would implement a 3/4 -cent sales tax increase for 15 years that could generate approximately $21 million annually. Residents and city leaders are hoping the new revenue could ease the city’s budget issues. (Voice of San Diego)
- Vista Community Clinic launched its first senior-focused clinic Monday, offering comprehensive health care to low-income seniors in the community. The new Durian Senior Adult Care facility will serve adults aged 65 or older. (Union-Tribune)
- San Diego Gas & Electric officials said they are no longer considering The Shoppes at Carlsbad mall as a potential site for a regional maintenance yard. More than 11 sites have been examined so far as a possible replacement for the existing North Coast Service Center at Carlsbad Boulevard and Cannon Road. The Carlsbad City Council has grown increasingly frustrated at how long SDG&E has taken to identify a new site, the council expressed last week. (Union-Tribune)