Woolery: Funding the Fight on Homelessness in Orange County

City of Santa Ana

A view of the homeless camp at the Plaza of the Flags next to Santa Ana City Hall and Orange County's main courthouse.

With homelessness being one of the leading issues of concern for Orange County citizens today, taxpayer dollars are being used to help fight homelessness by offering resources and support to help build a system of care in OC. How your taxpayer dollars are being spent is more of a mystery to the general public, however. In keeping with my effort to make my office wholly transparent, I would like to explain both the sources of funding and how those funds are used to provide assistance and resources for this vulnerable population.

This year alone, the Orange County Board of Supervisors committed $23.5 million of general fund money to providing multiple shelter options that meet a variety of needs, including the Bridges at Kraemer Place in Anaheim and the Courtyard in Santa Ana. Bridges at Kraemer Place is the County’s first year-round emergency shelter and multi-service center with onsite programs to transition the homeless into permanent housing. There were 100 beds in phase one, which opened in spring of 2017 while another 100 are in phase two, which is anticipated to be completed next year. The Courtyard is a round- the-clock center with 400 emergency shelter beds, showers, food programs, storage, and other services. The board also approved the issuance of the 2016 Permanent Supportive Housing Notice of Funding Availability to provide up to $8 million for the acquisition and new construction of permanent supportive housing for Orange County’s low-income homeless families.

The County’s Whole Person Care Initiative targets services to those experiencing homelessness and utilizing emergency rooms as medical care. This initiative provides medical care, housing and support services. From November 2016 through December 2020, $23.5 million is designated toward the initiative, with $9.6 million beginning soon.

An additional $23.9 million in funding from the County has increased the number of beds available for people in a psychiatric care crisis, allowing individuals to receive immediate psychiatric care as opposed to using emergency room services.

And lastly, the county has received $1.1 million in state grant funding to provide emergency shelter and rapid rehousing services to individuals and families in the community.

While the County of Orange is known for our affluence, it also makes us one of the most expensive places to live in the country, and this homeless crisis shows that no one is immune to needing help from their community. We are fortunate that our taxpayers are able to help provide funding for services to those most in need. And our office remains committed to ensuring your taxpayer dollars are spent with the utmost concern for accountability and transparency.

Eric H. Woolery CPA is, the Orange County Auditor-Controller is the largest independently elected Auditor-Controller in the nation, representing 3.3 million residents. For more information on the Auditor-Controller’s office, visit www.ac.ocgov.com.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org