Mercy House to Run the County’s Permanent Homeless Center

The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved selection of Mercy House Living Centers Inc. as the operator of the county’s first year-round homeless shelter and service center.

The 200-bed facility is scheduled to open at 1000 N. Kraemer Place in Anaheim at the end of 2017 and replace the existing winter shelter at the National Guard Armory in Fullerton.

The goal, supervisors and advocates said, is to provide a high-level transitional center that gets homeless people into permanent housing and provides them with the medical, mental health and other services they need.

For the past eight years, Mercy House has operated the overnight winter homeless shelters at the armories in Fullerton and Santa Ana. On average, between 150 and 160 people sleep each night at the Fullerton armory; and between 126 and 135 at the Santa Ana armory during the winter months, according to the nonprofit.

A final contract for Mercy House to run the year-round homeless center is expected to come to the board for approval in November or December.

Before then, county staff must determine, among other things, which services will be provided by existing county departments and which will be handled by outside nonprofits and vendors.

As an example, nonprofits representatives at Tuesday’s meeting said they would provide legal advice and meals to the homeless residents. But some other services, including behavioral health counseling, may fall under county responsibility.

Mercy House was one of three bidders for the contract. The others were the Los Angeles-based The Midnight Mission and Volunteers of America of Los Angeles (VOALA).

The five county bid evaluators were one staff member from the county Public Works Department, two staff members from cities in Orange County, a representative from the county’s Commission to End Homelessness and a staff member from a local non-profit agency.

The county keeps the identity of the evaluators secret to protect them from being contacted by unsuccessful bidders, said county spokeswoman Jean Pasco.

The county bought the Kraemer building last November for $4.25 million, with the cities of Anaheim, Fullerton and Brea chipping in a total of $1.1 million.

Construction and improvements to turn it into a shelter with space for services is expected to cost another $3 million; and $2.6 million is allocated for operations.

You can contact Tracy Wood at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.