County’s First Year-Round Homeless Shelter Opens

Photo by Thy Vo

(Left to Right) Supervisors Andrew Do, Lisa Bartlett and Todd Spitzer at a dedication ceremony for the new homeless shelter.

Orange County’s first year-round homeless shelter and comprehensive services center opens today in Anaheim with beds for 100 men and women.

“This is not a warehouse, this is a life-changing facility,” said Supervisor Todd Spitzer, at a dedication ceremony Thursday for the 6,000-square-foot building. The shelter is in Spitzer’s Third Supervisorial district.

Called Bridges at Kraemer Place, the building will include restrooms and showers, laundry, shuttle services, daytime service providers, job referrals and case management services.

When completed this summer, it will add another 100 beds as well as a kitchen, computer lab and health clinic.

Photo by Thy Vo

Sleeping areas for men and women are separated by barriers.

The opening of the Kraemer shelter is a major milestone for the county.

County officials have discussed a shelter since 2013 but struggled for two years to find a location. The project was given final approval and funding by county supervisors in November 2015, and, in December, 2016, they named Mercy House the nonprofit operator.

A year-round transitional shelter opened at an abandoned bus terminal in Santa Ana last fall, providing a roof for protection from the rain, but the walls are open to the heat and cold. Two National Guard armories, one in Fullerton and the other in Santa Ana, are open during winter nights to provide a dry place to sleep when it rains and escape the cold of the streets, but closed the rest of the year.

Spitzer said the dedication ceremony was “not a celebration” and that public officials countywide will need to step up to establish more facilities in other parts of the county.

“It will never happen with just one facility and we all know that,” Spitzer said.

Photo by Thy Vo

Polyurethane foam mattresses and pillows are coated with a waterproof nylon material.

The Kraemer shelter location, like previously proposed locations in Fullerton and Santa Ana, drew sharp opposition from nearby businesses and homeowners who raised concerns about the shelter drawing homeless individuals to the area.

He said North County elected officials need to be recognized for supporting the project.

Anaheim and Fullerton both contributed $500,000 toward the shelter, La Habra $150,000 and Brea $100,000. The county will provide about $1.8 million each year to cover operating costs, according to a county news release.

“This is not a time to pat ourselves on the back. It’s a moment for reflection,” said Spitzer, later adding, “But we should be so proud.”

Outreach is Key

The 200-bed Kraemer shelter is far from meeting the need countywide.

Although the January 2017 point-in-time count of homeless people in Orange County won’t be released until later this month, the most recent available figures, from a single morning count in January 2015, found 4,452 people were homeless.

A census conducted last November by the city of Anaheim found 797 unsheltered homeless people in Anaheim alone.

Mercy House director Larry Haynes.

Mercy House Executive Director Larry Haynes said the Kraemer Shelter would not be “a panacea for the entire county” but is an important start to creating a pipeline to permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

Unlike the Courtyard Center or an Armory, to stay at the Kraemer shelter, homeless people will not be able to just walk up to the facility and be admitted. They will need to be referred by an outreach worker for Mercy House or a partnering organization.

The shelter also will give priority to homeless people in the fifteen north county cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Palma, La Habra, Los Alamitos, Midway City, Orange, Placentia, Rossmoor, Stanton, Villa Park and Yorba Linda.

The shelter is not meant to be a countywide solution and, at least at first, people from other parts of the county, including the temporary transitional center in Santa Ana, won’t be able to stay at the Kraemer facility.

Haynes said that limited set up will also reduce the likelihood of the shelter becoming a “magnet” for homeless people and reduce complaints from nearby business and homeowners.

“This isn’t the courtyard, this isn’t the armory. We are in a business district, we’ve got a residential community within a mile,” Haynes said.

People will generally be able to stay at the shelter for up to 180 days at a time, according to a county press release, although Haynes said he would like to operate the shelter without putting limitations on how long people can stay.

“Our point is: what’s it gonna take to get you housed?” Haynes said. “Our role, our job, is to have 100 people document-ready for housing,” he said referring to the shelter’s current capacity.

Then, he said, it’s the job of affordable housing providers to provide housing.

Asked what portion of the homeless population is ready to be housed, Haynes said, “We’ve never found anybody who’s not ready for housing.”

He agreed the shelter will create pressure for additional housing, given that people will be ready for housing and can’t stay at the shelter forever.

Voice of OC Reporter Nick Gerda contributed to this report.

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

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  • Michael Morris

    I’m unsure what the comments of LFOldTimer & David Zenger are supposed to be calling for. Is it just an opportunity to criticize & lambast Officialdom without proposing any solutions at all? How worthwhile is that?
    As a taxpayer, I’m extremely frustrated at the seemingly intractable problem of ever increasing homeless in my city (Laguna Beach). It seems that every time my city spends money (we’ve previously been the only place in OC that had a year-round shelter prior to Kraemer Place), we get sued by the ACLU for not doing enough. Then the city spends years & untold millions trying to fight the ACLU, ultimately losing & having to give in. Lets face it. Homeless are humans and as such, they have fundamental rights bestowed by the U.S. and California Constitutions. Unless you are proposing to do away with the 8th & 14th amendments, scuttle the ADA and other laws, we as a society have to provide for these folks in some fashion. Like it or not.

    Rather than your cynical complaints, why not view this step that the OC Supervisors have taken as a small step in the right direction. Why not encourage more programs, Permanent Supportive Housing, etc., so that we reduce the numbers of homeless or at least, so that we distribute the resources available to help them out, so they don’t congregate in the Kraemer Places and LB’s Alternate Sleeping Location (ASL)? We don’t live in a society where the folks we don’t approve of or like can be summarily locked up or sent away. Residency tests are generally disallowed by decision of the US Supreme Court. Given those realities, your cynical comments about photo-ops, bleeding hearts, etc. contribute nothing.

    • David Zenger

      I’m “calling for” accountability and some common sense.

      If you think spending $10,000,000 for a homeless shelter in the wrong place in order to make yourself look good is not a reason to “lambast Officialdom” then I doubt that we have much hope for discussion.

      The rest of your comment follows such an wildly irregular orbit that it must, alas, go unaddressed.

    • LFOldTimer

      Apparently you haven’t followed me, Michael.

      I have REPEATEDLY proposed on these comment board to mandate ALL OC cities to build a homeless shelter in proportion to the size of their populations and the numbers of homeless people who live within their boundaries. It was INCREDIBLY unfair for the county to drop a 200 bed homeless bomb on one city. Oh, disclaimer: I don’t live in Anaheim. The dictators on the Board of Supervisors and the do-gooder liberals have no problem imposing their will on others that they would literally KICK AND SCREAM over if it ever happened to them. And I reserve the God-given right to bash hypocrites who live by the motto: Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.

      What would you have done if the county decided to put their 200-bed shelter in Laguna Beach? lol.

      Quite honestly, if I were homeless Laguna Beach would be the first place I would go. Beautiful setting and all the liberals there would take good care of me. What’s not to love about that?

      Laguna Beach residents have about as much right to complain about the homeless as the Santa Ana residents have to complain about illegal aliens taking over their city. lol.

  • LFOldTimer

    And so it begins……

    The homeless bomb dropped on the City of Anaheim.

    Now watch the chaos ensue over the next few years. Particularly after the additional 100 beds are added later this summer. Probably won’t even make the news. ha.

    As the socially-aware pseudo-conservative RINO supervisors pat themselves on the backs. And as all the liberal do-gooders applaud vigorously while secretly thinking in the backs of their minds “Boy, I’m sure glad this place isn’t located in my neighborhood or next to my business” – yet they just LOVE the idea of imposing it on others.

    And so goes the human race.

    • David Zenger

      My guess is we’ll never hear anything about “Bridges at Kraemer Place” (don’t laugh – we paid someone to come up with that name) again.

  • David Zenger

    The inevitable opening ceremony-photo-op.Probably the last image we’ll ever see of this place.

    • LFOldTimer

      My guess is that in 10 years or less it the area will become known as the skid-road of Anaheim.

      • verifiedsane

        These political animals only show up before the shelter is occupied by the homeless…just a political photo-op moment for another tax payer boondoggle that will do little to actually address the growing county wide homeless problem. This has the usual window dressing & BoS finger prints all over it….

        • LFOldTimer

          And by the time everything goes south and crime rises in the neighborhood by 1000% the mastermind supes behind the creation of the Kraemer Pl. shelter will be long gone causing more damage in other political offices. And the new supes will say “Don’t blame us. We didn’t do it. All we can do is try to fix the mess that they created.” Same old story, Verified. Like clockwork. You don’t have to be a licensed soothsayer to read the writing on the wall.