Homelessness Panel Set to Vote on Bus Station Plan

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The Orange County Commission to End Homelessness is scheduled to vote Friday on whether to urge the Board of Supervisors to use an empty bus station in the Santa Ana Civic Center as a year-round homeless shelter.

The proposal faces potential opposition from Santa Ana businesses.

Acting Santa Ana City Manager Paul Walters, who sits on the homeless commission, sent emails to city business leaders this week urging them to attend the meeting. In an interview Thursday, he said the homelessness issue and possible use of the bus station, must be discussed by the entire community.

“How do you get to making a decision without talking to the people who are going to be affected, both pro and con?” he asked. “That’s what good government is about.”

However, it is clear from the emails that Walters and others in Santa Ana want people to turn out against the plan, which has been advocated by John Moorlach, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Vicky Baxter, executive director of Santa Ana’s property tax-funded Downtown Inc., sent emails that read in part:

Last night I received this email from the City Manager and wanted to make sure that several prominent Santa Ana residents were aware of this upcoming meeting. … I ask that you come to the meeting and fill out a card to speak about the potential negative impact and the fact that the residents have not been consulted on what this potential use would mean to this corridor. Please forward this on to residents that may be effected by such a center.

She attached part of an email from Walters that read:

Vicky this is really important can you get some of your downtown business owners to turn out to stop the transit center from being recommended for homeless at the transit center on Santa Ana Blvd.

Walters said the full context of his emails made it clear that he felt it was important for all sides of the issue to express themselves. “They need to say it in their own words,” he said.

The only dependable sources of emergency shelter for those who suddenly find themselves homeless or who do not fit into programs run by county charities are the winter shelters at National Guard armories in Santa Ana and Fullerton. For the past two years, those shelters have been threatened with early closure as federal funds run short.

— TRACY WOOD

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