County Officials Hold Town Hall on Homelessness

County officials were upbeat at a public forum Saturday morning, painting the picture of an energized and proactive government eager to tackle one of the most difficult issues of contemporary American society: homelessness.

Nearly 200 people turned out for a town hall meeting Saturday morning hosted by county Supervisor Andrew Do.

The event functioned like a forum, with the audience submitting questions to the panel, which included Do, Behavior Health Director Mary Hale, Mercy House Executive Director Larry Haynes, Capt. Travis Whitman of the Garden Grove Police Department, and Susan Price, who heads up the county’s effort to combat homelessness.

Conservative blogger and political consultant Matt Cunningham moderated the event.

Much of the forum was dedicated to explaining what the county is already doing to address homelessness — from services provided by county agencies to rapid rehousing projects funded by state grants.

Do and Price spent much of the forum explaining services at the Courtyard Transitional Center, the homeless shelter and service center that recently opened at an abandoned bus terminal in downtown Santa Ana near the county Civic Center.

“The Courtyard is an experiment – we’ll deal with each issue that comes my way,” said Price. “On the first night, we weren’t ready, but we needed to open because we couldn’t do this another night. We opened the doors and had 83 people who came for safe sleep on the first night.”

She said the building is “less than ideal” but that the county was exploring options on how to heat the open-air terminal and block out the wind.

“When you cover that much area, it’s  a very big engineering study,” Do said. “If you see us moving ahead deliberately, that’s why…it’s not as simple as screwing on a bunch of tarps.”

Asked about whether officials would address the lack of affordable housing countywide, Price noted the difficulty of finding enough units to house the homeless.

“There are 90,000 people on a [section 8 voucher] waiting list and 20,000 recipients in the county, so it’s hard to find a unit,” Price said. “We have tremendous subsidy programs, but [we also have] a 3.3 percent vacancy rate in the County of Orange.”

Do said efforts by the county to incorporate affordable housing into projects can go unrecognized, pointing to a planned community in Rancho Mission Viejo that will be required to include 107 units for senior affordable housing and 112 units for family affordable housing.

“So there’s things we do on a project by project basis as they come up,” Do said. “[But]a…the ability to create affordable housing rests ultimately on the cities.”

There was no discussion of a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which found most of the federal and state funding the county currently receives goes toward maintaining the current stock of transitional and permanent supportive housing.

With those funds stagnant or growing very little, the report argues the county will need to pour its own resources – an estimated $55 million per year out of its general fund – toward creating new affordable housing, if it wants to be able to meet demand.

Do said that although the county has yet to create a complete, coordinated system of care for the homeless, his goal is to eventually have a one-stop-shop that can connect the homeless to all services within the county.

“My vision is one day we will have one phone number that will be universal key to all services…there should only be one number,” said Do.

Do, who faces a tough reelection battle in November, said supervisors’ vote to approve new funding for rapid rehousing last week was not timed for election season.

“There’s always this question of ‘you have all this money, why didn’t you do it sooner, is this all part of electioneering?’” said Do. “No – when it comes to grants from the state or federal government, they have time periods where they go out for applications…and only then, after six or seven months, did we hear back.”

Contact Thy Vo at or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • James Weaver

    Oh, how I can believe what you are saying Ms. Jacki L. There is a subtle campaign here in Orange County, to eliminate the so-called ‘undesirables’…Namely, African Americans! Illegal aliens are OK. That’s why Santa Ana

  • Jacki Livingston

    Let us not forget the hidden scandal at OCHA, where they were giving out vouchers to friends and family, denying them to those on the list. They also use the list to punish “enemies”. One day you are #3000, and if you make someone mad, you are #33,000 a few days later. It happened to me.

  • James Weaver

    With all the federal money being distributed around O.C. City and County civic leaders, one would believe that they might contribute a little directly into the homeless blight. But, it’s all a sham, designed to criminalize homelessness and relocate the African American population out of the county. Seems far fetched, you think…Go online, call Realtors, and/or simply walk onto a property; and be Black. I’m Black and I even have a pseudo Choice Housing Voucher (Section 8). Still, to no avail, everyone that I have approached ostensibly do not accept the government’s housing voucher. I hope that I’ll be able to utilize my voucher, before it expires. Yeah…The City of Santa has established a policy, to void housing vouchers, from certain people who are unable to obtain affordable housing. If the situation continues or worsen, my six year old son and I will have to live on the streets. A limited, fixed monthly income doesn’t go to far.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    There are empty Hanjin containers sitting in ports everywhere, nationwide, according to many news articles, due to their bankruptcy. It would be a great time to lobby into position to secure them and turn them into housing. Midway City is doing it as we speak. Expand that model. Get cities involved on a joint venture.

    Alternatively … Codes in our cities, do not allow them. If revisions were made, they could be plopped by cranes into backyards, there are many large yards in OC, and used as granny flats. Since we are trying to conserve water for the future that part of the yard can be made useful again. For residents and their relatives, or to offset this huge need to house, store people.

    If our leaders were serious about housing needs, they would also offer tax credits to homeowners who did this in order to encourage this easy peasy remedy to the county’s housing needs. Might as well be nice.

    Why not?

  • LFOldTimer

    Great timing for Supervisor Do. He even hosted the Homeless Town Hall. Wow.

    His sudden concern and push for action on the homeless problem should tug at the voter’s heartstrings.

    Tack on the $86,000 donated to him by the OCSD public safety union and it should be enough to kick him over the finish line as the victor.

    I understand that a little over a month ago Do voted to give OCSD an 8.8% salary hike and a lump sum payment of 0.5% of their base salary. It’s reported that will cost the taxpayers about $62M.

    What a coincidence!

    • James Weaver

      Supervisor Do is full of himself…He and no other civic leader/representative seriously care about the homeless situation in Orange County. And, the Choice Housing Voucher program is a farce and a sham, to say the least. I recently received my housing voucher from the City of Santa. But, guess what…Every property manager that I have approached insist that they don’t have an affordable housing program. I am not a foreigner, so I ostensibly don’t meet their criteria for one of their units. Thus, I’m left to believe that the housing program only exist for the purpose of City/County agencies to receive government funds, while deliberately nullifying the programs designed to eradicate homelessness. Oh, I’d bet that there is even more to why, all of a sudden, a particular segment of society is being discriminated against. And, you best believe that Supervisor Do and Orange County Realtors have comtemplated this ruse.

      • LFOldTimer

        Don’t give up, James.

        One of these days after enough people get messed over like you there may be a grass roots movement to bring things back into balance. There’s a lot of discontent out there. And it’s growing.

        In the meantime you might go next door to Mexico to inquire whether they could provide you with affordable housing. Just make sure you don’t ask the wrong person. You might end up in the place with a dirt floor and the comandante as your landlord.

        I wish you well.

  • David Zenger

    “Conservative blogger and political consultant Matt Cunningham moderated the event.”

    How funny. The individual who was paid to gin up NIMBY opposition to the homeless shelter in Anaheim. Well done, Do.

    P.S. Thy, conservatives don’t drumbeat support for massive corporate welfare scams.

    • James Weaver

      Can Supervisor Do explain why realty companies/apartment managers are collaboratively not participating in the HUD’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which is ostensibly designed to reduce homelessness? I would imagine that the federal government is poring a whole lot of money into local government’s efforts to houses the less fortunate, especially in Santa Ana, which has been considered a crisis situation. To no avail, disabled, single, African American males, raising a child (as I am), have been repeatedly told that they (apartment complexes) are not participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program. However, several non-Black Housing Choice Voucher recipients, that I personally know, have been accepted by Santa Ana apartment management(s). And politicians, namely Senator Feinstein, in a position to have this overt discrimination investigated, are deliberately ignoring the real crisis: RACISM. Hopefully, our campaign to register homeless voters and get them to vote will send a message to civic leaders. And, if we can get Trump in office, there may be a future for real American citizens. Democrates are corporate thugs, who deserve to be jailed, for ripping off this country.

      • I agree that Feinstein is worthless, a great Corporate supporter. I actually asked her to resign when she supported the job killing TPP, Continued to support the Patriot Act. I regret that Barbara Boxer is retiring instead of her. Perhaps if you were a black woman, Feinstein would help. But TrumpaLumpa would be worse. He would eliminate the Section 8 housing program completely as he would not make a personal profit from it.
        I was on the OC section 8 housing list for over 2 years as a Veteran, I lived in a seniors housing facility that had a few section 8 units available, I saw that they were filled by Asians, a couple of Blacks, but mostly Latins. Not one white person. I finally moved out to live out of the country, where I can afford to actually live and enjoy the remainder of my life.
        I cannot possibly comprehend how a person that asks for (& receives) public support would even think about voting for ANY republican more less TrumpaLumpa he is a Con Artist, an admitted racist, politifact gives him less than 10% truth rating. I do not believe in Clinton either, I believe the DNC should recall the results of the Convention and make Bernie Sanders the candidacy even at this time he would walk away with the presidency, but Hillary is the lesser of 2 evils.

        • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

          Greater Good over Chosen Few, and do the right thing.
          Why is that so hard for the elected? Oh, I know. Because of buying power. Elected officials spend more time hustling money, entertaining more money possibilities and being lobbied to, than they do doing for US, We the People. Our system is so broken.

          Those 33,000 emails that were Bleach Bit’d, “5th of November, a day to remember” … more heartache revelations from wikileaks. Supposedly in November, some say 1st, some say 5th.

          Bernie’s wife Jane did not want him to concede or endorse according to the emails released the other day. Little birdy was a good omen that he did not listen to either. Love Jane. Love Dr.Jill. Dweezle.Di, read those documents. Not sure about lesser of the two. Soliciting money while working on public dime for a private family foundation to then sign off on arm deals for people who hate us more than they love their children, and those arms then going to isis and al queda factions. Oh.Em.Gee., Dweezle.Di. It’s really bad. Unless, I misread, real bad sh.oo.t. Selection. Not election too. Wow.