Addressing a community need: the homeless of Del Mar

By the Rev. Joseph Dirbas

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

During the Christmas season, it is appropriate to take time to reflect upon those things in our lives for which we are thankful and also to raise our awareness of things lacking in our own lives and the lives of others. The city and community of Del Mar is a precious resource to the Parish of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (“St. Peter’s”), just as, since its ministry began in the late 19th century, St. Peter’s has been and remains a valuable resource to the city and community of Del Mar.

St. Peter’s recognizes and acknowledges its responsibility to our community and to our neighbors, both commercial and residential, as the Parish continues to discern God’s call for our ministries and outreach activities.

The homeless population in the United States continues to increase due to many factors, including high unemployment rate and the economic recession. According to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, there were 643,067 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.

In 2012, it is estimated that greater than 3.5 million people will experience homelessness. Surveys indicate a strong concentration of homeless reside in coastal states, with California, New York, and Florida accounting for 39 percent.

Like the rest of the country, San Diego County is experiencing rising homelessness. Local surveys report that there were 9,020 people experiencing homelessness in 2011, a 19 percent increase since 2008. From 2010 to 2011, the homeless population in Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encinitas rose 3 percent. Currently it is estimated that in these three communities there are 202 homeless, 152 of whom have no access to shelter. Homelessness in our local community is a very real, present and growing challenge. We remain committed to acknowledging and addressing this issue.

St. Peter’s has discerned and acted upon a call to ministry to the homeless population in North Coastal San Diego County. Our ministry has taken two forms.

• Once a year we offer our parish hall as a two-week rotational shelter for homeless individuals and families in transition. Many of our guests from this program have gone on to secure jobs and housing and have worked their way off the street.

• Throughout the year, we offer assistance to members of the homeless community who may be considered chronically homeless due to psychiatric disorders, disabilities, or substance abuse.

Our ministry, Helping Hands, has been in operation for more than three years and offers food, clothing, and personal hygiene opportunities to homeless men and women. The Helping Hands Ministry evolved out of need, as the Del Mar community experienced an increased number of homeless persons requesting and needing assistance.

St. Peter’s is offering a response to those in need (the poor, the outcast, the marginalized of society) as we believe such to be our Gospel imperative. And, at the same time we are committed to being good neighbors and participants in the community (as we also believe that to be our Gospel imperative).

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