It is difficult to find a place where the effort to fight homelessness has more hurdles than Orange County.
It is among the few large counties in the state lacking both a year-round emergency shelter and a county hospital. Nonetheless, like others Southern California, the county’s warm climate makes it a magnet for homeless people.
Despite these challenges, a dedicated group of government officials and nonprofit leaders continue to work on behalf of the homeless with the goal of someday finding a roof to put over everyone’s head in Orange County.
Last week, some of those folks visited the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board to talk about their efforts and have a frank discussion about what works and what doesn’t.
The group included: Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, Orange County Human Relations Executive Director Rusty Kennedy, Illumination Foundation CEO Paul Leon and OC Commission to End Homelessness Executive Director Karen Roper.
The two nonprofit advocates, Kennedy and Leon, clashed over whether to focus on countywide or city-centric approaches:
Roper, meanwhile, compared the efforts of the homeless commission to a small rudder on the Titanic:
When it comes to a key law for mental health treatment, Moorlach said his efforts to get funding included an unexpected reaction from state officials:
As for the taxpayer angle, Leon pointed to a Los Angeles program as showing that actually dealing with homelessness would save millions of public dollars:
Moorlach, meanwhile, talked about his struggles with Santa Ana officials, citing his failed effort to convert the city’s shuttered bus depot into a homeless shelter as an example: