County Social Services Agency Bus Now Serving Civic Center Homeless

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

A county social services bus at the downtown Santa Ana Civic Center.

In response to demands by Orange County supervisors to step up efforts to address homelessness in Santa Ana’s downtown Civic Center, officials have brought in a converted recreational vehicle to help link people with social service programs.

Known as the Mobile Response Vehicle, it was brought to the Civic Center for the first time last Thursday, according to county Social Services Agency spokeswoman Elizabeth DenBleyker.

Inside, eligibility workers helped people apply for assistance programs they might be eligible for, like Medi-Cal, CalFresh, CalWORKs, and General Relief, and respond to questions about existing cases, she said on Friday.

“Yesterday, [the Social Services Agency] was able to serve over 40 individuals with an array of services including applying for services, completing redeterminations, obtaining replacement benefit cards and linkage to other supports,” said DenBleyker.

The homeless encampment at the Civic Center has grown to hundreds of people over the past few years, including some families with young children. The situation has frustrated many who live and work in the area, including many homeless people themselves.

Last month, that frustration appeared to reach a boiling as supervisors, following a column on the situation by Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana Jr., castigated   county staff during a public meeting for not doing more to address the homeless situation.

During the session, supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer wondered aloud why the county isn’t “pulling up a van every single day and deploying services,” adding that there should be a “continuum of care” available to the Civic Center population.

He suggested that it include a triage area where homeless people can get set up with drug counseling, mental health treatment and housing and welfare-to-work services.

Going forward, county officials say they plan to bring the vehicle to the Civic Center area each Thursday from about 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., until the end of October.

It’s “part of a larger, multi-agency effort with the Health Care Agency, Orange County Community Resources, and the Santa Ana Police Department to address the needs of the homeless population in that area,” DenBleyker said.

“We will be evaluating the effect that our collective efforts have made in October and will determine our plan for moving forward at that time.”

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