Plans For OC’s First Year-Round Homeless Shelter Move Forward

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The proposed homeless shelter site, at 1000 N. Kraemer Pl. in Anaheim.

Longstanding efforts to establish Orange County’s first year-round homeless shelter took a major step forward Tuesday, when county supervisors started the process to buy a building in a commercial area of Anaheim.

Following a marathon public comment session – 55 people spoke, the vast majority in support – supervisors unanimously approved a $4.25 million purchase agreement for property at 1000 N. Kraemer Pl. in Anaheim, which includes a 24,000 square-foot industrial building.

The location has drawn significant support from elected officials, nonprofit groups and homeless advocates, who say creating a homeless shelter there would be crucial for helping get many of the county’s homeless people off the streets and into permanent housing.

“The missing link in this broad continuum of care” is a shelter, said Brad Fieldhouse, the executive director of City Net, which the city of Anaheim has hired to coordinate nonprofits, churches, businesses and others on homelessness.

The shelter proposal wouldn’t just be a place to dump people, Fieldhouse added.  “This is a catalytic space for us to work with people.”

Many faith-based groups stand ready to support a shelter, noted Deborah Phares, a former executive director of the Orange County Congregation Community Organization, or OCCCO.

The proposed multi-service center “would go a long way to really help facilitate the participation of people in Orange County that really want a long-term solution,” said Phares.

At the same time, some business owners and residents said they are deeply concerned about how the proposed shelter would impact them, and urged supervisors to reject the site.

Chris Vance, who owns a piano store across the street from the property, predicted that a shelter could “easily” drive away customers and put him into bankruptcy.

“My financial wellbeing and future will lay in the balance. I will lose millions of dollars,” Vance told supervisors.  “Essentially I will be the main sacrificial lamb.”

A resident who identified herself as Ms. Allegro said many of her neighbors are opposed to the site, but couldn’t show up to Tuesday morning’s meeting because they had to work.

“I think that [the shelter] would be a detriment to my neighborhood and my area,” Allegro said.

Two residential neighborhoods are about a mile walk from the proposed shelter site.

An attorney, Kevin McCullough of the firm AlvaradoSmith, has been hired by at least one opponent, who he has declined to identify.  He alleged that the county would be breaking state law by moving forward with the purchase without conducting an environmental impact review.

County officials, meanwhile, have told the Orange County Register that such a review can’t be performed until a project is proposed, if such an environmental review is even required at all.

As for the opposition to the project, a leading nonprofit provider said it’s crucial to conduct intensive community outreach to businesses and homeowners and acknowledge their concerns.

It begins with a viewpoint that “this is not good versus evil,” said Larry Haynes, executive director of Mercy House.

“When we have that perspective, we can always find ways to solve” our problems.

Orange County is the most populous metropolitan area in the nation without a year-round homeless shelter, according to advocates.  Instead, two temporary shelters are opened during winter months, and then close for most of year.

The idea behind the shelter proposal is to not only provide emergency housing but also connect homeless people with services – such as job placement, drug and mental health counseling and veterans services – in a one-stop location, known officially as a “multi-service center.”

Two previous purchase efforts for shelter sites – in Fullerton and Santa Ana – fell apart in recent years amid a community backlash alleging that the county failed to properly engage local residents on the front end of the planning process.

In an apparent reaction to that, the county plans to hold forums at night to solicit more public input, before the final land acquisition approval comes back to supervisors.

Supervisors also largely held off Tuesday on commenting about the shelter proposal, with Chairman Todd Spitzer saying such comments would be premature before the forums.

Elected official supporters at Tuesday’s meeting included Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, Fullerton council members Jennifer Fitzgerald and Doug Chaffee and a representative of state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Orange).

“We have an opportunity to act with genuine kindness and compassion today,” said Murray.  “The resolution of that problem cannot be to continue to deter, defer and delay action.”

Two of the county’s most influential business groups – the Orange County Business Council and the Building Industry Association of Orange County – also had representatives voicing their support for the shelter.

Some business owners near the site, meanwhile, have yet to make up their minds about the proposal.

“Frankly it’s shameful the amount of homeless we have in this county,” said Brad Steelman, who owns a business near the site and doesn’t yet know whether the facility would be an asset or not.

“It’s our responsibility as business people, as individual home owners, to really address this problem.”

Supporters from several churches and Muslim organizations also spoke in favor of the project.

Zuhair Shaath of the Islamic Institute of Orange County said the shelter is “something that we need to do.”

“At the end of the day, we may not see [homeless] people on a daily basis, but they’re there and they’re alive and we hope that we give them the best of strength,” he said.

The time and location for the public forums on the shelter haven’t been announced yet, though officials plan to send out a news release with that information in coming days.

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

  • dc matthews

    Matthew 25:31-46 These whiners are the same people that preach at the poor and blame them, who have no boots, for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. I’m not so sure a piano store has legitimate concern about people vs the economy and general location problems of being far from music schools and customers. If the Shelter has plenty of onsite space for people to sit maybe in the shade, maybe some raised garden beds and a room for low cost yoga classes or other community classes local biz people or residents can participate in too, that could benefit all even more.

  • kurtsip

    Now the thousands wounded by Dan Harkey, the husband of Board of Equalization member Diane who were victimized by his scheme may have a place to live. He still has not paid one cent to them (us) of his Elder Financial Abuse award of $12,000,000 from two years ago…..

    • dc matthews

      WOW ! where is a link to this? Are there too many zeros on that fine?

      • kurtsip

        There were 3,000 investors in the $500,000,000 Point Center Financial. Harkey convinced the majority that when the “Great Recession” finished, he would make good. 83 of us did not believe him and sued. He did not make good, nor did he pay the court award to the plaintiffs. The elderly who did not sue are out their money, completely.There are many links online. You can start with Sipolski/Harkey.

  • tedamudgett

    IN MY VIEW OF THIS IT MIGHT BE A POLITICAL WAY TO GET RE ELECTED I’LL BELEAVE THIS IS TO WHEN I SEE HOMELESS PEOPLE ON LIVE TV WALK INTO THIS 300 BED FACILITY FULLERTON YOU SHOULD BE ASHAME OF YOUR SELF YOU WONDER IS TO WHY FULLERTON CITY HALL IS CLOSED EVERY OTHER FRIDAY IT IS BECAUSE BIG BUSINESS IS MOVING OUT OF ORANGE COUNTY 5.8 BILLION DOLLAR BUDGET FOR ORANGE COUNTY FULLERTON 174 MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET ANAHIEM 1.6 BILLION DOLLAR BUDGET MONEY IS NOT SPEANT WISELY ON LOW INCOME FAMILY’S OR ON PUBLIC LIBRARY COMPUTERS THANK YOU

    • Cindy Johnson

      You need to remove your cap-lock if you want anyone to be able to read what you have written.

    • dc matthews

      Biz moves out as the housing prices rise already are too high to support affordable workers for small and med biz. I read many of the newer buyers are foreigners and OC people sitll have few affordbale options and many need subsidy from charity or govt becaue the Housing in OC is a Suppliers Market – no say from demand is being heard. In a Free Market there would be a good supply of housing for the lower income workers, seniors and disabled in every city in OC.

  • talkinghead

    Who are all these organizations that paraded around the BoS yesterday promoting the dire need of a homeless shelter at this location? Where were they when Fullerton was brought up as a potential site? Where were they when Santa Ana was brought up as a potential site?

    Not a peep from any of them, until yesterday. Shame on all of you.

    Two cities buy in (Fullerton/Anaheim) to keep it as far away from their populace as possible and the County can also say buh-bye to the homeless problems around Civic Center. No more AB109 dropoffs to worry about. It’s someone else’s problem right?

    Oh and get ready for the River Trail to turn into a homeless highway, just like the encampment on Katella, next to Honda Center.

  • jz

    It never ceases to amaze me how reactive people could be, basing their reactions on no facts but their own fantasies. Pumping up all sorts of reasons e.g., no one will shop in my store across the street, etc. Permanent homeless housing exists in every major city in the US, many adjacent to major businesses who, rather than be harmed, actually benefited by having a compassionate enterprise next door. Perhaps the piano guy can get a tax deduction for his business by donating a piano to the shelter and provide free piano lessons as a community service. He might even find someone, down in their luck he could hire in various capacities. In many cities, including San Francisco and L.A., homeless advocates began businesses that turned into major operations like gourmet restaurants, run by the previously homeless.

  • tinroof

    It seems to me that it would be best to place the shelter as close as possible to the Orange County Civic Center in Santa Ana. That way the homeless people will still be able to spend their days on the mall there, and then not have too far to travel to get to their beds at night. If they put it on Kraemer in Anaheim how are the homeless people going to get back and forth to their daytime spot at the Civic Center?

    • dc matthews

      I read a proposed site in SA was rejected. There needs to be sites in N, S, W and central county and separate facilites for people who need rehab of various types.