Marine Vet Wants to Build ‘Basecamps’ to House San Diego’s Homeless

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Marine Vet Wants to Build ‘Basecamps’ to House San Diego’s Homeless

A homeless encampment in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 4, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Siyamak Khorrami

Siyamak Khorrami

1/20/2024

Updated: 1/21/2024

A U.S. Marine veteran and businesswoman who is running for Congress says she has a solution to fix San Diego’s homeless problem: creating what she calls “basecamps” where unhoused individuals would live in a supervised community and receive services.
Kate Monroe is a Republican who is a candidate for the 2024 U.S. House of Representatives race to represent California’s 49th District—which encompasses the San Diego coastal communities of Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas, and parts of Orange County from the coast of Laguna to the county border.
She said on a recent episode of EpochTV’s “California Insider” that her idea is based on what’s known as a “forward operating base” from her military experience—temporary, tent-like installations that house troops and operations that are quick to set up and take down.
Ms. Monroe said she came up with it after talking with 400 to 500 homeless people currently living on the streets in San Diego.
After six or seven recent visits to different encampments, she said she learned that homeless people form their own communities and watch after each other. That’s one reason, she said, they often prefer living in encampments rather than in shelters, where she said some have told her they don’t feel safe.
Basecamps, she said, would draw on that sense of community but in an organized way where services could be offered—an improvement, she said, over so many nonprofits that are currently providing services without coordination or accountability.
Kate Monroe, a Marine veteran and businesswoman, appears on a recent episode of EpochTV’s “California Insider.” (Taras Dubenets/The Epoch Times)

Kate Monroe, a Marine veteran and businesswoman, appears on a recent episode of EpochTV’s “California Insider.” (Taras Dubenets/The Epoch Times)

Such locations, Ms. Monroe said, could be created in four or five days in any city and would have a “chow hall,” a chapel, showers, a commissary, and there would be what she called “purposeful work” for those staying there.
Basecamps would also offer resources for finding housing and jobs, and would provide help with everything from getting a driver’s license to new clothes.
Medication and medical and mental health treatment would also be available, and rehab for those addicted to drugs or alcohol—for as long as it takes—would be mandatory.
Ms. Monroe said such a solution would cost one-tenth what cities throughout the state are currently spending on their respective homeless interventions, which have not helped solve the state’s homelessness.
According to the 2023 point-in-time count, San Diego has over 10,000 homeless people in the county, the most the region has ever recorded. Additionally, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, at least 550 homeless people died in the county last year.
Ms. Monroe said through her visits, she saw one common theme.
“A lot of the commonality is, 85 percent of it is drugs,” she said.
She said so many elected leaders have missed the mark thinking the compassionate thing to do is to give homeless addicts clean needles and let them use on the street. Instead, it is enabling, she said.
“If we really cared, we’d get them off drugs,” she said. “We would give them that kind of hard love that they need and force them to clean up their lives.”
A homeless encampment in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 4, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A homeless encampment in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 4, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

During the time she’s visited the area’s homeless encampments, she says she has seen families, men, women, people of all ages and of all races.
Ms. Monroe recalled one young boy she met, who was walking through a homeless encampment—riddled with needles and feces—on his way to and from a local shelter with who appeared to be his mother and other siblings. She said he carried a backpack with a button pinned to it that said, in part: “You are a child of God.”
“It broke my heart and I could not stop thinking about it for like a week ... these are people that need our help,” she said.
She said we have lost sight that those on the streets are people: that they are someone’s brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, mom, or dad.
Another story she told during the 30-minute episode was when she was able to reunite a disabled homeless man with his sister who lives in Georgia. The sister told her she had been looking for her brother for 25 years.
Ultimately, Ms. Monroe and his sister got the man cleaned up with regular showers, a haircut, beard trim, new clothes, and an RV to live in.
“Once you go to this kind of length for people, it changes you,” she said. “It changes your heart.”
Also close to her heart, Ms. Monroe said, are the homeless vets she encounters. She estimates there are between 700 and 1,000 homeless vets on the streets in San Diego, but she said she thinks the number is higher as many are too embarrassed to say they were once in the military.
She said many end up on the street, because the Veterans Administration does a poor job transitioning them to civilian life and letting them know what services are available to assist them.
“There’s so many barriers for them to get the help they need,” she said. “We let them down very much.”
Ms. Monroe said after opening a car dealership in Oceanside in 2020, she learned many vets who wanted a loan, but were not qualified, were not aware they could receive disability compensation through the government. Many, she said, didn’t know how to apply for a claim, so she started doing it for them, and built a clientele.
She said all of this made her realize there was a problem, so she created a website, Vetcomm.us, walking vets through the process of filing such claims in easy and quick steps.
“I’m a problem solver,” she said.
This is one of the reasons, Ms. Monroe said, she is running for elected office, along with the concern that the San Diego area she loves is struggling, and parts—like downtown San Diego—no longer feel safe due to the homeless problem.
“But I would say this. It’s not too late for San Diego or any other city,” she said. “Every problem is solvable if you want it to be solved.”
In the March 2024 primary, Ms. Monroe is running against incumbent Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) and three other Republicans.
Siyamak Khorrami

Siyamak Khorrami

Author

Siyamak Khorrami has been the general manager and chief editor of the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times since 2017. He is also the host of the “California Insider” show, which showcases leaders and professionals across the state with inside information about trending topics and critical issues in California.

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