Armenta: County Officials Need to Rethink Proposed Anaheim Homeless Shelter Site

I am one of the hundreds of local residents who has vocally opposed the County’s plan for a 200-bed, permanent homeless shelter at 1000 Kraemer Place in Anaheim.

Many of us also volunteer our time and energy, in various ways, to help the homeless, but we oppose this location and believe there are better locations and solutions.

Orange County Human Relations Commission Chairman Ken Inouye’s October 27 opinion column was offensive, condescending and misrepresented how the County of Orange has conducted this process.

Mr. Inouye, who lives many miles away, claims the County has “orchestrate[d] intense public engagement.”

Anyone who lives near the proposed site can tell you that is a sham.

For example: Mr. Inouye closes his October 26 column with a pitch for readers to come to the Board of Supervisors meeting at 11:00 a.m. on November 17 to support the Kraemer Place shelter. The public wasn’t told when the Board would vote on the shelter until November 3.

Why was Mr. Inouye, a vocal shelter advocate from Huntington Beach, given the heads up more than a week before those of us who actually live near the site?

That’s typical of how the County has played this.

When the Board of Supervisors voted on June 2 to approve the purchase agreement for 1000 Kraemer Place, the meeting was packed with professional advocates who were in the loop.

Hardly any residents were present because hardly any of us knew about it.

The county then promised us three community forums in June, July and August.

At the June 26 forum – held miles away in Fullerton – the most common answer to our questions was “I don’t know.”

The County subsequently announced it was re-scheduling the July and August forums. Weeks passed with no updates, so we organized our own community forum on August 8 at the Embassy Suites in Anaheim, near the impacted community and 1000 Kraemer Place. Approximately 400 residents attended, nearly all of them opposed to this location.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer was invited but declined, and sent no representative from his office.

The second forum finally happened on September 30.

An estimated 600 people came.

Most were affected residents, while the rest were shelter advocates from out of the area.

Contrary to Mr. Inouye’s claim, most attendees were opposed to the proposed shelter location. After waiting months for the County to present its shelter plans, we were given just 30 seconds to comment or ask questions about Power Point presentations on the operations and public safety plans we had just seen for the first time.

The County of Orange and the cities of Anaheim, Fullerton and Orange want to stick a 200-bed homeless shelter near where we live and operate it year-round, 24 hours a day, yet we only get half a minute to have our say.

Instead of being reassured, residents left that forum angrier and more distrustful of the county’s plan than when they arrived.

The third forum has apparently been re-scheduled for the 1st of Never-Gonna-Happen.

More examples:

The Kraemer Shelter Operations Plan was completed on August 14.

Instead of sharing it with residents starved for that information, the County sat on it until the September 30 forum. Even then, the actual plan wasn’t made available on the County’s official “Kraemer Project” information website.

The 30-day public comment period for the shelter CEQA documents, began on October 30.

Those documents were buried deep in the OC Public Works website.

The County waited until after the public comment ended to post a link to the CEQA documents on the Kraemer Project information website, in what some consider a Brown Act violation.

The Board of Supervisor vote on November 11 will take place in the middle of the day.

The professional homeless advocates can spend all day waiting to give their canned support speeches – it’s their job. But it’s hard for us to take a day off from work and wait hours for our turn to speak for three minutes. It’s even tougher when the County behaves as if it doesn’t really care what we think.

Ken Inouye, chairman of the OC Human Relations Commission, waves away our concerns as “unfounded,” “irrational,” and “rooted in fear” and implies we’d would be on board if we only had the facts.

If Mr. Inouye spent time relating to the humans who live near 1000 Kraemer Place, he’d see the County has hardly lifted a finger to inform us. The only reason hundreds of residents attended Supervisor Spitzer’s September 30 community forum or are even aware of the shelter proposal at all is due to the efforts of affected businesses and resident to inform them.

There are alternatives.

One of our members found a similar size building for sale on next to the Civic Center that is $1.2 million cheaper than 1000 Kraemer Place.

The huge OCTA Bus Depot also sits at the Civic Center, empty, next to hundreds of homeless.

What about more, smaller, 30 to 40 bed shelters around the county instead of big, 200-bed shelters?

Wouldn’t it be quicker and more flexible to use the millions planned for Kraemer Place for mobile intake centers that can go to the homeless?

Or perhaps take Sup. Andrew Do’s advice and first figure out how to coordinate the County’s uncoordinated homeless programs.

And for being engaged, active citizens asking questions and demanding answers, Mr. Inouye accuses us of “unfairly pointing the finger” at “decent people.”

Orange resident Angie Armenta is active in BetterSolutions4Anaheim.com, a group of impacted residents and businesses opposed to locating a 200-bed permanent county homeless shelter at 1000 Kraemer Place.

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  Publisher Norberto Santana at nsantana@voiceofoc.org.