Orange County supervisors Tuesday gave an early green light for the development of an affordable housing project for 49 veterans who are homeless, disabled or both.

The development, which would be on county land in Placentia near the Yorba Linda Reservoir, is slated to include services such “as job training, job placement, [Veterans Affairs] benefits assistance and health and wellness,” according to a county staff report.

Colorado-based nonprofit Mercy Housing would develop the “Placentia Veterans Village,” paying $3 million at the start of construction and $2,000 per month leading up to that point.

Supervisors gave unanimous approval for Mercy Housing, which officials describe as “one of the largest affordable housing developers in the state of California.” County staff will now negotiate a lease deal and bring it back to supervisors for approval.

In comments to supervisors before the vote, Placentia Mayor Pro Tem Craig Green gave his “full support” to the project.

Green said he visited a Mercy Housing project in El Monte, where “they’re doing a great job” of providing an “incredible” housing environment for veterans, with support for vets to stabilize and get back into society.

A neighbor of the proposed project, Thomas Tonelli, whose 85-year old father is a veteran, also threw his support behind the project.

“I’ve watched a lot of veterans run into stumbling blocks, and they need help,” Tonelli said. “This is a case where the county can actually do something positive,” and “set the tone for future projects, and actually help people.”

Advocates say there’s a huge gap in affordable permanent housing for homeless people in Orange County. That makes this project an important step in the right direction, said Eve Garrow, a homelessness policy analyst and advocate with the ACLU of Southern California.

“This sounds like a small but significant step in the right direction,” Garrow said.

“While the new project aims to house 49 veterans, there are over 4400 people experiencing homelessness in Orange County on any given night, with half going without any shelter at all.  The county must commit more resources to ensure that all of its homeless residents are safely and permanently housed.”

When it comes to addressing homelessness, there’s been a growing effort nationwide to focus on providing permanent housing with support services, amid research showing it to be more effective than other approaches.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at

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