John Moorlach didn’t waste any time Tuesday in making waves as the new chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Moorlach told those assembled at the supervisors’ regular meeting that it is “a real honor to serve on this board.” He then went on the offensive, challenging officials from Santa Ana over his plans to use a defunct bus station in downtown Santa Ana to feed and potentially house homeless people.
Just before the board adopted their plan, Supervisor Janet Nguyen read into the record Santa Ana’s official “strong opposition” to the bus terminal proposal.
“Great,” Moorlach quipped, “so the homeless should be across the street and not there,” referring to the large encampment of homeless people that practically live on the lawn of the Orange County Civic Center.
Moorlach has been pushing a plan to use the empty Orange County Transportation Authority building across the street for homeless services.
That’s the kind of action called for in the county’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, which has several phases.
Steve Kight, who oversees the OC Partnership established to deal with homelessness, unveiled a plan — ultimately approved by supervisors — with four phases covering moe than 10 years with more than 50 strategies.
Last year, the group focused on organizational challenges, such as finding an executive director. This year is the year of measurement.
Kight told supervisors it’s important to establish measures that can “tell us how many come into the system, how long they stay and where they exit.”
The biggest challenge comes next year, Kight said. The county must then address how to replace its cold-weather shelters with more permanent shelters. “It’s a big issue for the county,” Kight told supervisors.
Given the reaction in Santa Ana, it won’t be easy.
The next biggest challenge, Kight said, is strengthening transitional housing, which he called “the backbone” of getting people with problems back on their feet and into stable living conditions.
Kight spoke last week before the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board, delivering a similar message.
Supervisor Pat Bates wants Kight to bring more information to the board about how other communities have successfully implemented strategies for tackling homelessness.
Meanwhile, Supervisor Shawn Nelson noted that given situations like the serial killings of homeless people in Anaheim and the Fullerton police beating death of a homeless man, his office is working to help organize a homelessness summit in North Orange County.
— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.