Orange County’s first comprehensive shelter and service center for single homeless adults, which was originally scheduled to open by the end of this year, is now slated to open sometime between April and June, officials said Wednesday.
The services center, at 1000 N. Kraemer Place in Anaheim, is envisioned as a way to provide up to 200 homeless people at a time with a safe sleeping space and support services like mental health treatment and housing referrals.
While the project was given final approval and funding by county supervisors in November 2015, the contract and lease with its nonprofit operator, Mercy House, wasn’t approved until this week.
At Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, homeless advocates said there’s a desperate need to open the new shelter quickly and urged the supervisors to take action.
Fred Schremp, who volunteers for the homeless through local churches, wondered why it’s taking so long to get the Kraemer shelter up and running when it only took the county 30 days to open the new Courtyard shelter in Santa Ana.
“What’s going on? I mean, in 2016 you were able to move and open the Courtyard,” he said. “Why can’t we open [Kraemer] and let these people who need a place, a safe place to stay, have this place?
County staff presented supervisors with two options Tuesday: Wait to open the shelter until it’s been fully retrofitted in mid-2018; or do construction in phases so the shelter can open by this next summer.
Supervisors opted for the quicker option, which Public Works Director Shane Silsby said means the shelter would open in four to six months.
The Anaheim shelter will have key differences from the county’s Courtyard shelter in Santa Ana. First, it will not allow homeless people to walk in or out – they would instead book a “reservation” at the shelter and get picked up and dropped off away from the site. This is being done to quell the fears of business owners, residents and city officials who worry that the streets around the shelter could be overrun with homeless people.
Also, the shelter is expected to offer a much more intensive array of services than are available at the Courtyard, and stays would generally be limited to no more than 30 days.
Under the contract approved Tuesday, Mercy House will receive up to $2.8 million in federal, state, and local funds to operate the shelter between now and June 30, 2018. Mercy House also was awarded a 20-year rent-free lease on the property, with two 10-year renewal options after that.
Some homeless folks apparently have already stayed there, albeit without permission.
Curtis Gamble, a local homeless man and advocate, says he and some friends stayed at the vacant Kraemer building and found its roughly 10,000 square-foot warehouse space to be nice.
“We sneaked in there and did it,” Curtis told the county’s Commission to End Homelessness last Friday, to surprised reactions. He said the warehouse part of the facility would be a prime place to get shelter set up quickly.
Unfortunately for Gamble, the cops caught on to his unauthorized stay. “I had some things on my record,” he said. “So I got four days in jail.”
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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