Multi-service homeless shelter: Looking Out for the Vulnerable

Coming Together
At first I was moved by the concerns expressed by business people and residents about the planned multi-service homeless shelter. I empathized with the panic that arises in all of us when we worry that we are going to lose our nest egg, endanger our children, deteriorate our neighborhood, and bring criminals and perverts where we live.

But then I listened intently at the public forums at EV Free in Fullerton and Eastside Christian in Anaheim, for hours as caring individuals from the County of Orange, non-profit shelter providers, and law enforcement shared the truth about the planned operation of the shelter. And I realized that the concerns were not founded on fact, they were rooted in fear and unfairly pointed the finger at the decent people trying to look out for these vulnerable members of our family.

Building Consensus
An incredible effort has been underway over the last decade promoted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that suggested a bold 10-year-plan to end homelessness be developed by County Governments across the country. It has its roots in initiatives going back to the 1970’s when a courageous group of housing pioneers organized by the OC Human Relations Commission, League of Women Voters, Fair Housing Council, Legal Aid Society, and others sought to include low-income housing in all communities.

The objective, to provide a full continuum of housing for everyone from the affluent to the poor, from the mentally ill to the homeless, from the family to the individual, from the elderly to the young.

The process of developing this 10-year-plan was exhaustive including all of the local people, private providers of shelter, faith-based charities, key elected officials representing cities and the county, and staffed by an amazing group of Orange County Government employees. This comprehensive planning effort was intentionally slow to include everyone in the process, taking in all views and perspectives, coming up with rational plans that would be in the interests of all county residents.

Irrational Fears Cause Repeated Setbacks
Good plans for multi-service homeless shelters around the county that would have moved people off the streets and into shelter, and connected them with services that would allow many to get their lives back on track, were shot down by well-meaning residents armed with unfounded fears. Unfortunately, some folks were only too happy to lead the stampede by stoking concerns with misinformation.

Key Leaders Stepped Up
Supervisor Shawn Nelson was the first to promote a multi-service homeless shelter in his own district. Standing up to harsh voices in multiple forums he shared his experience as a neighbor of a homeless shelter.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer is currently leading the process to open a shelter in his own district. Spending valuable political capital to do the right thing, he has worked with County staff to orchestrate intense public engagement.

City officials in Anaheim, Fullerton, Orange, Placentia, Brea have also put their money and personal reputations on the line for the proposed Kraemer Place site. Councilwoman Kris Murray moderated the most recent forum, with Councilmembers Jennifer Fitzgerald and Fred Whitaker managing the microphones for the nearly 100 members of the public who wanted to weigh in. Chief Raul Quezada outlined a well thought out safety plan worked out collaboratively with all of the law enforcement agencies in the area.

The Public Raised its Voice
The last public forum, held at Eastside Christian Church, which is in proximity to the site of the proposed shelter, drew about 600 people, almost 100 testified in an open and interactive session.

One local business owner didn’t complain about the full nude strip club adjacent to his property, but thought the homeless shelter would be a bad neighbor. Many local residents spoke passionately, without realizing that many of their concerns were unfounded. Facts like that there will be no walk-ins at the shelter, and that the shelter will allow local law enforcement to reduce the homeless on the street, making their neighborhood safer.

The clear majority spoke in favor of the homeless shelter. Although the opponents were loud, they were clearly outnumbered by a broad cross section of the caring people of Orange County. Faith leaders, shelter volunteers, church members, homeless individuals, local residents, local business people, diverse communities, police, local elected officials, etc. came together to say the time is now, the place is here, let’s do the right thing.

Final Action by the Board of Supervisors
At 11 a.m. on November 17 the Board of Supervisors will take final action to approve the opening of a year-round, multi-service, homeless shelter at 1000 Kraemer Place in Anaheim. Join us in supporting the Board of Supervisors as they do the right thing.
The time is now, the place is here, let’s do the right thing!

About the Commission: The Orange County Human Relations Commission was created by the Board of Supervisors in 1971 to build mutual understanding among residents, and eliminate prejudice, intolerance and discrimination.
Ken Inouye is a businessman and current Chair of the Commission. 

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Engagement Editor Julie Gallego at jgallego@voiceofoc.org.

Read an editorial by a resident opposed to the shelter here.

  • LFOldTimer

    I watched on video a man who owns a business near this Kraemer Pl. location speak at a Supe’s meeting. I believe he owns the building which houses the business. As I recall he said it would ruin him financially. You see, this is the sort of thing that drives people right off the deep end. A good, decent, productive, taxpaying man minding his own business and trying to make ends meet to the best of his ability. No government pension. His only chance for retirement are the fruits of his own labor. He’s successfully operated the business for years (no easy task). Suddenly, the County plops a 200+ bed homeless shelter next door. All those years of hard work and perseverance flushed. Yep, that’s the sort of stuff that drives men mad. Ever think about that, Mr. Inouye? Imagine yourself in his shoes if you have that ability.

  • LFOldTimer

    Of course Mr. Inouye has a dog in the race being a member of the OCHRC. So I take what he says with a grain of salt. Anyway you size it up it’s wrong to build a massive homeless shelter in OC that’s anywhere near businesses or homes. Naturally the people from the County of Orange and the cops are going to tell you everything will be fine. And once it’s done and they are proven wrong it will be impossible to undo. They know that. How would everything be fine by putting 100’s of homeless people with severe mental problems in one place? Use your common sense. The County has a special selfish interest in moving the homeless from the Civic Center Plaza to Anaheim. Watch them pass a law that kicks the homeless from the Civic Plaza to this new Kraemer Pl. site. Out of sight, out of mind. I bet none of the County officials who spoke at the public forums live or own property anywhere near to the proposed Kraemer Pl. shelter. If they did this project wouldn’t even get off the ground. All of us know that. There should be 10-15 smaller shelters spread throughout the County or a big shelter up in the Canyons far away from homes and businesses – with transportation provided by the County. But that would never happen. It makes too much sense.

    • David Zenger

      Was that the same OCHRC that roundly condemned the murder of Kelly Thomas by six members of the FPD? Oops. No, they were the people that turned it into a homeless issue.

      • LFOldTimer

        Lapdogs for the power brokers, right or wrong.

  • David Zenger

    Mr. Inouye, thanks (I guess) for your PR piece. You didn’t mention that the Big Show was an orchestrated event with support hauled in to cheerlead. I don’t see anything to be gained by insulting the people who are having your shelter foisted on them.

    As to your history: isn’t it amazing how all those great people could bump heads for so long and still not come up with a decent plan?

    FYI – Spitzer, as ever looking for a camera and a klieg light, took up the cause for Kraemer Place – a site presented to him by Anaheim.

    Too bad Brandman and Murray chose the WRONG location. There are no homeless nearby – just a bunch of irate neighbors. They did it to distract attention from the $3,000,000 they already spent (wasted?) on a much better location – on Karcher Way, a site that RIGHT NOW has real homeless people pitching tents up again the fence. These are real homeless people, amigo, not some government abstraction. Please tell all those great County employees to go take a look, if it’s not too much trouble.

    Now…

    Just once I would like someone – professional philanthropists or houseacrats – to demonstrate why a massively expensive, permanent structure is the one and only approach to dealing with a homeless challenge that spans a plethora of problems and human behavior – instead of a solution that is agile, mobile, and flexible – and millions less expensive. For some reason the public is expected to take the word of a bunch of “experts” who have still to accomplish anything after all these years of heavy cogitatin.’

    Kramer will cost at least $10 million in capital account to open (in a few years), and millions more to operate every year on revenue account. That money, properly applied, could help thousands of people without having to build a single permanent foundation – and it could be started on Karcher Way in a matter of months. True, there will be no bronze plaque with the politicians names on it, but is that really so important (hint – it is to them)?

    I grow weary of people with good intentions creating more problems than they solve. The gesture is meaningless without success, no matter how good it makes you feel at first.

    • LFOldTimer

      And by the time this project is up and running and the warts become obvious most of the Supervisors will be gone from the Board. The new ones will say “Don’t blame us. We didn’t approve it”. Same ‘ol, same ‘ol. And the lifelong unelected bureaucrats in County government who promoted it will safe as houses and immune from any professional repercussions. Not hard to figure out.

      • David Zenger

        True. All the usual suspects will have moved on to their next elected office.

        The big problem on this site (If you don’t count the cost, and why would you – since of course money is no object to these people) is the logistics of getting people to and from this ridiculously remote location. Many of the homeless would simply refuse to go there.

        • LFOldTimer

          But OC is a densely populated area. If centrally located it would be impossible to place a massive 200+ bed shelter away from homes or businesses. Somebody’s going to get hurt. That’s why the only good solutions would be to either operate 10-15 more manageable smaller shelters throughout the County or put a big shelter up in the canyons and the County could provide the transportation. I feel sorry for the business owners, property owners and residents near Kraemer Pl. I certainly wouldn’t want this draconian solution imposed on me. And I won’t wish it on anyone else. I was raised to be civilized.

          • David Zenger

            “That’s why the only good solutions would be to either operate 10-15 more manageable smaller shelters throughout the County…”

            Bingo!

            I only advocate for the Karcher site because it’s already bought and paid for. Rather like Brandman and Murray.