Homeless Shelter Activists to Speak Up at County Meeting

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Santa Ana activists who are concerned about a proposed year-round homeless shelter in Santa Ana’s eastern quarter plan to take the issue directly to the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Dora Lopez and Susana Sandoval said they had sent a letter to supervisors nearly a week ago asking for a discussion of the issue to be placed on tomorrow’s agenda.

“It is important to reconsider the decision since there are many concerns with the location and the process to inform constituents,” the Sept. 9 letter states.

It also notes that Santa Ana Unified School District’s superintendent and Santa Ana City Councilman Vincent Sarmiento have sent letters to supervisors opposing the shelter’s proposed location.

The proposed shelter lies nearby Kennedy Elementary School in Santa Ana.

(Click here to read the activists’ letter and here to read the school district’s letter.)

But since the item was not on the agenda as of Monday night, Lopez and Sandoval are planning to speak up during public comments.

That portion of the meeting, which comes toward the end, affords members of the public the opportunity to address the elected supervisors

“Unfortunately the Supervisors did not respond to our request to be on the agenda,” Susana Sandoval said in an email, adding that the letter was delivered to their offices.

The proposed shelter has triggered opposition from hundreds of residents in the surrounding neighborhoods – some of the most impoverished in Orange County — who say they are already dealing with enough problems.

Over 300 people attended a community forum on the issue last month, where speakers expressed fear that homeless residents would include “sex offenders” who “hide among them,” talked about hypodermic needles from drug use, and even raised the specter of potential serial killers.

But perhaps the most common theme was that these neighborhoods are already battling the challenges of urban poverty, including gang violence, among other problems. Residents say they shouldn’t be expected to also have to carry the burden of housing hundreds of homeless people.

Meanwhile, homeless people and their advocates have taken offense at many residents’ fear and negative stereotypes of homeless people.

The residents said they weren’t properly notified or consulted before July 15, when the county Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of a 23,000 sq. ft. warehouse at 1217 E. Normandy Place. The county’s only community outreach meeting occurred July 2.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at the county Hall of Administration.  Click here for a map.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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