That Orange County is as close as it's ever been to having a year-round homeless shelter is due in large part to the efforts of Supervisor Shawn Nelson and the North County Roundtable on Homelessness to find and propose a site.
And Nelson is not at all shy about saying as much.
"We couldn't make any progress with this issue, because no one had the guts to take the first step," Nelson said this week after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a site at 301 S. State College Blvd. in Fullerton. "The only reason we found a site is because I'm not afraid of the arrows."
He's also not at all shy about publicly challenging his colleagues to step up themselves.
"It will be too convenient to say, 'You guys work really hard, and we'll just ship our homeless to you.' … That is not going to be the case," Nelson said. "The other supervisors are going to be expected to work with their communities and find a site."
The hardest part of that work, Nelson acknowledged, will be persuading cities that homeless shelters are not magnets for crime and do not make neighborhoods less safe. He said he knows firsthand that that fear is unfounded, because for years he lived near the Fullerton armory, the site of one of the county's temporary homeless shelters.
"All of the fear is paper-tiger stuff," Nelson said. "I never had an issue living three doors down from the armory. … People literally share a fence with the armory. Their kids play in the backyard."
His first order of business will be making sure his own city is on board. Before the supervisors cast their votes Tuesday, Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker asked for a delay in approving the purchase so the city would have more time to review it.
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