County Considering Site for Year-Round Homeless Shelter

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The Orange County Board of Supervisors will consider Tuesday purchasing property in Fullerton that would serve as a year-round emergency homeless shelter, something advocates have long said is sorely needed in the nation’s sixth most populous county.

Pending approval by supervisors, the county will pay $3.1 million for a 29,000-square-foot building on two acres at 301 S. State College Blvd., according to a county staff report attached to the agenda for Tuesday’s regular supervisors meeting. The property is adjacent to a shopping center in southeast Fullerton near its border with Anaheim.

Orange County is one of the few large metropolitan areas in the nation that does not have a year-round emergency homeless shelter, instead relying on two National Guard armories in Santa Ana and Fullerton that serve as temporary shelters from December to April.

“Each year when the County‚Äôs Armory Emergency Shelter Program closes for the season, Orange County immediately loses 400 low-demand emergency shelter beds,” stated the staff report in reference to the goals of the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness. “To address this issue, it is critical to transition the seasonal Armory Emergency Shelter Program to a year-round emergency shelter program.”

If built, the shelter would be the most tangible accomplishment yet for the homelessness commission, which has been heavily criticized by advocates for its lack of action.

It is significant that a property in Fullerton is the proposed site of the shelter. It was at the Fullerton bus depot in the summer of 2011 that police beat to death Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man. Thomas’ death has served as a rallying cry for better treatment of both homeless and mentally ill people.

The site was identified by the North County Roundtable on Homelessness, which was convened in February 2012 by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, according to the staff report.

Please contact David Washburn directly at dwashburn@voiceofoc.org.

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