Shawn Nelson Issues Call-to-Action to Find Beds for Homeless

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

County supervisors Shawn Nelson (left) and Andrew Do have a side conversation at a supervisors meeting.

Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson said Tuesday the homeless situation should be treated as an emergency and issued a call to action to find sites to house all of the county’s thousands of homeless people.

At the end of a Board of Supervisors meeting in which activists again criticized supervisors, Nelson directed county staff to research how to quickly provide a bed for all of the homeless in Orange County, including potentially creating campgrounds on county-owned properties.

And he said he wanted to know what could be done within a month.

“We’re never gonna make progress until we can at least figure out how to answer the question [of how] we have a bed for everyone that wants it,” he said.

“We have to at least be there for them, and then we’ll start working backwards with why people don’t want the services, if they don’t.”

To that end, Nelson directed county CEO Frank Kim to put together a list of “every parcel that the county owns that is feasible to put an emergency, temporary shelter” within a month.

One option he gave was empty lots where the county could set up portable restrooms, showers, and tents.

“The Marines do all kinds of things out of tents for long periods of time,” Nelson noted in his remarks.

“This is emergency stuff,” Nelson said. “It’s not the answer. It’s just a step.”

Nelson’s directive was met with no opposition from the rest of the Board of Supervisors.

The only other supervisor to comment on his remarks was Lisa Bartlett, who said she agreed with Nelson and believed the county should also work toward a statewide and national conversation about homelessness.

“Every county needs to try to do its part,” so Orange County isn’t taking the overwhelming burden on this, Bartlett said.

Nelson’s remarks were greeted with mixed reaction from activists, who appreciated the effort but still want a commitment from the county to fund permanent housing.

“That is welcomed and unprecedented in this county,” said one of the leading advocates, Mohammed Aly, in a text message to a Voice of OC reporter.

“Authorized campgrounds are insufficient, and do not supplant permanent housing, but they provide homeless individuals with a reprieve from laws that criminalize their existence.”

Aly and other activists said they stand ready to work with the supervisors on solutions.

Nelson’s call-to-action came after months of public comments, including Tuesday, from advocates urging the county to create safe and sanitary places for homeless people to stay. 

Until recently, their effort seemed to be going nowhere. But they kept pursuing the issue, speaking during public comments, pursuing federal lawsuits, and talking with Nelson and county homelessness czar Susan Price.

During the public comment period earlier in the meeting, activists again called attention to a shortage of shelter and restrooms for the homeless.

Several speakers thanked supervisors for sending workers to fix a broken water fountain near the Santa Ana riverbed, where hundreds of homeless people live. But they said homeless people still lack access to restrooms, which they said has drawn complaints both from homeless people and the residents of nearby apartments.

Activists suggested the county provide portable restrooms, open existing restrooms at a park along the river 24 hours a day, or both.

Until that happens, people are put in position of having to use buckets as toilets, said Brooke Weitzman, an activist and attorney. She recently obtained a court order against the county regarding the seizure of homeless people’s property near the Santa Ana River.

One of the biggest homeless camps is in the county Civic Center, right outside the supervisors’ office windows in Santa Ana.

Another is along the Santa Ana River near Angel Stadium.

In February, the county removed the homeless camps along the eastern riverbank.

But in response to Weitzman’s lawsuit, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter last month ordered the county to give a physical notice 24 hours before seizing property and mandated that “essential items” like tents, sleeping bags, and medical papers be stored within one mile of where they were taken. 

Last week Voice of OC reported Nelson had a homeless camp replaced with rocks near the Santa Ana River last summer.

Before Nelson’s comments Tuesday, Anaheim resident Jeanine Robbins told supervisors the county’s new Kraemer shelter, which is slated to open with an initial 100 beds next month in Anaheim, is a good attempt but will house less than 4 percent of the county’s homeless population at a time.

“It is time for the actions of this Board of Supervisors to garner a headline – a positive headline – that shows that we are a county willing and able to help the less fortunate,” Robbins said.

“Please, you guys, do something positive about this problem.”

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at

  • Bobby Kutzner

    Here is a real solution:

    With real data from study’s.

  • Jacki Livingston

    When I was fighting for my clients at SSA, Nelson was the only Supervisor to do anything at all about looking into the situation. Of course, his CoS had no follow through, and Nelson never found out the truth of what was going on with the corruption, but I do give him credit for doing SOMETHING. Nelson does have a heart and a little ethics. Do I wish he had more, given the millions still being fleeced from the OC taxpayers by SSA? Yes, I do. But I do think he wants to do his job, unlike Spitzer, who is corrupted to the core, and uses his position to do all kinds of filthy things.

  • Paul Lucas

    kind of odd since he had a camp razed

    • Mike

      Just shooting in the dark on a edgy subject with no seeming solution.

  • Juan Trippe Aviation Pioneer a

    How about we take all of the Proposition 63 funds away from OC Health Care and use it for housing?

    • OCservant_Leader

      The MHSA money could go a long way- even with the BOS taking their cut to fund their campaign staff.

      Last figure I recall – after more than a decade and a Billion dollars…OC housed 100 mentally ill- homeless.

      Doesn’t anyone else think there is something wrong with this picture?

      • Mike

        YES the money is not being spent appropriately. And to fix that the whole mess needs to be reinvented.

  • Falpherst

    Shame on the BoS. The BoS has a medieval understanding of homelessness itself, and that’s why they aren’t doing anything. Homelessness has MANY clear and effective proven solutions for permanent housing and transition programs at MUCH lower cost than the typical methods used in Orange County. Police and laws don’t fix homelessness!!

    • Mike

      YES arresting the homeless is just absolutely ridiculous and more costly than buying them homes in Newport Beach.
      Arrest them, beat them down, take away their stuff, take them to jail and let them out the next day with nothing. That will teach them not to lose their job and their house and their car and their mental health and their physical health!
      What the heck is going on?

  • LFOldTimer

    Strange. Nelson would be the very last supe on the board who I would expect to aspire to shelter every homeless person in OC. Is he trying to prove a cynical point that homeless people are wanderers and really don’t want to be part of the establishment’s culture? Or does he have his eye on another political office after his term limits expire and is building a résumé to pander for future votes? There’s something wrong with this picture. It’s just not the same Nelson I’ve observed for nearly a decade. What a transformation. Did he find Jesus? Time will tell.

    I continue to believe that every city in OC should build it’s own homeless shelter with the # of beds contingent upon the size of the city and the historical homeless population in each city. We shouldn’t just dump thousands of homeless people in central OC. The county should organize a coalition of cities on homelessness and shame those that refuse to cooperate.

    At the same time we shouldn’t make OC so attractive to homeless people that we become the homeless capital of southern California. There should be some regimented rules for those who live in homeless shelters. No drugs. No booze. And every occupant must show that he or she is making progress to improve their lives and become productive citizens. The mentally ill must agree to treatment. If they refuse to comply or break the rules – back to the streets. The individual cap on the transitional stay is 1 year per every 5 calendar years.

    I don’t mind spending tax dollars to help people out who want to help themselves and become independent of the system. But I don’t want to get played by con artists either. But the status quo isn’t working.

    What happened to that homeless czar the supe’s hired? I thought it was a high-profile job and we would hear more from her in the media. She was marketed as a super-star on homelessness. Is she still on the county payroll?

    • OCservant_Leader

      I agree – Nelson is up to something for him to do a 180. He hates this human service stuff.

      • justanon

        Something is “up” alright, namely public pressure.

        Instead of criticizing, a better use of everyone’s energy would be to keep the pressure on. Make sure they follow through with the temporary camping sites and continue to push for more money to go towards permanent housing solutions.

        • LFOldTimer

          Nelson couldn’t care less about ‘public pressure’.

          Remember when he clandestinely changed the rules on pensions so he was eligible for one after running on an anti-pension campaign? lol. He never even flinched at the public blow back. And, if I recall correctly, that was prior to his reelection.

          Now he’s a termed-out supervisor. Why would he care any more today?

          • OCservant_Leader

            Yea- he and his “Bill-me-some-dough” Triple dipper COS are cooking up some scheme.

          • Mike

            Again Florida tent site cost minimum amount and we just need to add all the services too. There is about a few hundred million for homeless services in the bank we just need some places for them and the money “should” come.

    • Mike

      Yes they need to make progress. But they have found in many cities if you leave out the people doing drugs it fails. They need meds, the choice of drug rehabilitation, showers, bathrooms, grooming, transportation to jobs and most important a safe place to lay their head and leave their stuff.
      Inexpensive to leave them in organized tents until they move step it up. That is the set up in Florida. But it is obvious that the whole thing needs to be reinvented.

  • Colchester Creek

    Not a victory (yet) but perhaps the early beginning of what might possibly be good news – and this from the supervisor who just weeks ago wanted tents dragged away and replaced by boulders. Two thoughts :

    1. The new site(s) can’t be dumping grounds – places you move the unhoused to simply to get them out of sight and out of mind. To be sustainable the location(s) must have ready access to full wraparound services, including health, housing, welfare, education and employment opportunities and the transportation to connect to them.

    2. Never doubt the power of an open voice. Kudos for this event must go to Mohammed, Brooke and a countless army of activists who refused to let the supervisors continue to brush this matter and these people aside. They spoke, they wrote, they marched, they filed – a constant conscious irritant that this supervisor could no longer ignore. “A citizen’s duty is to keep their mouth open”. Yet more proof that it’s the only thing that ever works. However we cannot allow Nelson’s statement to be the last act- we must keep pushing and speaking until it bears acceptable fruit. Thank you all !


  • OCservant_Leader

    A long-slow clap for the BOS grandstanding. yay.

    Do something. Do anything. My god.

    I worked at the Civic Center for almost 20 years and these weathly politicians let me and every one else walk in human fecal matter and spread disease on a daily basis.

    Although I have a flashbacks – I do chuckle every time I think of the newbie EAs tottering on their LBs on the way to Starbucks…ha! (Psst – u can’t get the poo or urine off shoes!)

    That place is a discusting – hell hole.

    And oh – CEO – Frank Kim is going to do something? He will blow with the wind until he is 55.

    • Mike

      Get on board as change comes with a lot of people working in concert.

      • OCservant_Leader

        I was on board – being paid by the taxpayers at OC for 2 decades to use my extensive education and experience to improve human service delivery, however, my real job was to teach EAs and GED appointees how to type and explain the meaning of big words like “performance measures”.

        You go sacrifice YOUR career to bring change in corrupt OC – I did my time.

        • Jacki Livingston

          *nodding* Agreed. Anyone with a brain and a heart has been drummed out of County employment, a long time ago. Anyone with both of those and some sense of ethics or integrity was forced out after long, intense and protracted battles. Bottom line, for me, is that Spitzer and his sick, twisted, mentally ill little cronies are sitting in their offices, high up, deliberately refusing to hear the crimes being committed daily, at SSA, and all of the corrupt, filthy ripping off of taxpayers, by the absolute scum of the Earth management, most of whom are no better than common street drug dealers and thugs. The level of violence, of nepotism, of drug dealing, of scandalous affairs and misconduct and pure mental illness in that agency is unheard of, anywhere else. I laugh, every time I show the files and documents to people, and they see just how vile that agency is, top to bottom. You will never help the homeless in OC while SSA remains a corrupted, criminal institution.

          • OCservant_Leader

            You speak the truth. The battles on the way out are ridiculous.

  • Brian Oldham

    There is a lot of work on the problem of homelessness being done around this country and the world. It is not a mystery. Look at this link and feel free to contact me if you want help.

    Brian Oldham

  • David Zenger

    And now a lurch toward problem solving.

    Too bad the County wasted $10,000,000 on a shelter that the homeless will have to be bused to, if they want to go at all – a shelter that at full capacity could accommodate only 25% of just Anaheim’s homeless population.

    And Frank Kim is suddenly going to solve this mess? Oh dear.

    • justanon

      And why will this new shelter be a waste?

      I can agree that the location is less than ideal, but there was an outcry by residents and business owners over two prior location choices in Santa Ana and Fullerton. I don’t think NIMBYism is exactly the fault of the BOS.

      Housing two hundred people decently is an expensive challenge in OC and 2.6 million of the 10 million is for running the place.

      The BOS should rightly be criticized for their incredibly slow response and low priority they have given to the homeless crisis in this county, but why criticize when they actually make some effort and progress on the problem?

      You’ve already declared the shelter a waste and a failure, what do you propose be done?

      • David Zenger

        “And why will this new shelter be a waste?”

        Because $10,000,000 could have addressed a slew of immediate problems among the homeless population. Instead Spitzer and Co. decided on the costliest, most complicated, least nimble strategy to make themselves look good.

        The Kraemer Place shelter is in the wrong place and will create a whole new array of expensive logistics problems – if it works at all. If this isn’t a waste, it’s as close to a waste as any government expenditure can come.

        BTW, the final capital price tag still isn’t known.

        So, other than some rhetoric at yesterday’s meeting and post on Voice of OC, what have effort has even been expended.

        Ho hum.

        • justanon

          “Because $10,000,000 could have addressed a slew of immediate problems”

          Like what? And then would you complain that the 10 million could have been used on a permanent facility?

          “The Kraemer Place shelter is in the wrong place”

          Where could this facility have been placed that wouldn’t have created an outcry by residents and business owners? Name the place.

          Of course, the BOS should have done more, sooner, but why b*tch about the thing they actually have done?
          The Kraemer Place is 24,000+ sq ft and while it can’t house everybody it hopefully can be used as a starting point to get people off the street and into more permanent housing.

          Complaining for complaining sake is just BS.

          • LFOldTimer

            You’re the one who promotes illegal immigration in California which creates more homelessness by making fewer jobs available to our citizens and legal immigrants and pushes rents higher pricing people out of the housing market.

            Talk about being part of the problem. lol. Look in the mirror.

          • justanon

            I am not “promoting” illegal immigration, but I am realistic in defining the solution, which is to go after the employers.

            Punishing employers of undocumented immigrants is the easiest, cheapest, most effective and most importantly, permanent solution.

            You in contrast, just want to get your jollies out by demonizing and persecuting the poor and vulnerable immigrant population.

          • LFOldTimer

            If you don’t promote illegal immigration I’m Ralph the Wonder Dog. lol.

            I have no idea how you can post some of your comments with a straight face. lol.

          • justanon

            Right, and you just posted ” But I don’t want to get played by con artists either. ”
            after supporting trump, the biggest con-artist ever! The irony … it burns, lol!

          • LFOldTimer

            According to justanon everyone is to blame for illegal immigration except for the illegal immigrant.

            Who could make this stuff up? lol

          • Falpherst

            Everybody please ignore LFOldTimer!! Troll!!!

          • verifiedsane

            Talk about a Troll! FalFailPherst is just another nutty cultural Marxist who can’t handle honest debate or any apposing views…just move along, Diaper Boy’s hand maiden….

          • justanon

            What a BS comment, what has Falpherst ever written that is “Marxist”?

            You need to stop with your juvenile and ignorant taunts. They make you look foolish and bore the heck out of everyone else.

          • verifiedsane

            Everything you and your pals write in comments is so far left, that you are walking in continuous dizzying’re so indoctrinated in your tunnel vision pseudo political philosophy, you may not even realize that your views mirror those of cultural Marxism…then follow that fact up with your propensity to viciously attack those with different or opposing views with truly vulgar vitriol; hammers the final nail in your Dumocrat/communist/socialist coffin. So there you go, Diaper Boy….keep us YAWNING or Laughing (depending upon the reader) with your ignorant blind mice cut and paste commentary….Maybe some day you will grow up and develop a few critical thinking skills of your own…..but I seriously doubt it 🙂

          • justanon

            More gibberish, the poor boy suffers from a truly brain rotting disease, ‘juvenilus eruptus psychosis’, so, so sad.

          • verifiedsane

            YAWN!!! thank you for proving my point over and over and over again… The main difference between attempting to carry on a dialogue with a stone-wall and Diaper Boy; is at least the stone-wall serves some material purpose… 🙂

          • justanon

            And you IGNORE the American employers of the undocumented workers.
            We wouldn’t have a problem with undocumented laborers if they weren’t given jobs here.

          • LFOldTimer

            Illegals need to stay in their own countries and work. If there aren’t enough jobs then the illegals need to redress their own governments to find solutions, rather than to become our problem.

            Your opinion is anti-American. It’s obvious to me that you hate America.

          • justanon

            You must personally have employed dozens of undocumented workers, otherwise WHY GIVE A PASS TO AMERICAN’S WHO EMPLOY THE UNDOCUMENTED?

            They could not live here if they did not have jobs and all your obfuscating won’t change the fact that the problem begins with American employers and ends with American employers.

            The REAL TRUTH of course, is that you’re just a sadistic SOB who wants to see pain and hardship inflicted on others, shame on you!

          • Mike

            You do know that we are talking about the homeless that are dying on the street as we type.
            Just like Korea where they argue about the shape of the table while men are dying like flies.

          • Mike

            The point in time sill be out really soon and should tell us more about who they are how many there are and where they are from.

        • Mike

          I want tents with services and work on housing as the next step. But of course that might take years.

      • Mike

        For instance – the homeless are all around La Palma park right now. And the people do not want them to have a safe place instead of their yards? Odd. They complain that the homeless go to the bathrooms in their yards but do not know that the bathrooms in the park are locked forcing them to go anywhere. Take a persons money and dignity and you make them crazy. Perhaps we just give some back, they come in and come back to reality?

    • Mike

      The Kramer shelter is not just for Anaheim homeless but county too, 7,000 strong. $4.2 mil so far with $10 mil asked for marks it at about $70,000 per person for 200 people.

  • verifiedsane

    Nelson has declared this a political career emergency…we must take quick action to run political cover…so lets watch the BoS go about sticking their fingers in the failing dam once again. This is more of the BoS looking for temporary & short term fixes to pacify the public; when dealing with a long term systemic problem…now that’s what we call failed leadership! what’s next, proposing a new tax on Joe/Jane public to drop into a bottomless politically motivated bureaucratic sink hole?

    • David Zenger

      “Nelson has declared this a political career emergency..”


    • LFOldTimer

      I think this may be a prelude to putting a homeless tax on the OC ballot. L.A. kicked one across the finish line. But watch them divert the revenue to shore up the failing public pension funds which are going to be in trouble sooner or later.

      Instead of solving the problems that lead to homelessness they want to throw more money at the symptoms – which is always a losing bet.

      There’s something Nelson isn’t telling us here. Ulterior motives. It’s totally out of character for Nelson to wear his heart on his shirt sleeves over homelessness. Something’s up.

      • Juan Trippe Aviation Pioneer a

        I think you are correct!