Fullerton Council to Decide on Study of Homeless Permanent Housing

JOE KROLICK, Pathways of Hope

Site of possible Pathways of Hope permanent homeless housing in Fullerton.

The Fullerton City Council decides Tuesday whether to give the nonprofit Pathways of Hope a greenlight to study 2.25 acres of city-owned land to potentially build 80 housing units with support services like medical and mental health care.

The nonprofit, formerly known as Fullerton Interfaith Emergency Services (FIES), specializes in shelters and permanent housing programs for homeless people and has a resource center in Fullerton that has a food bank and job counseling services. Pathways of Hope also will move its headquarters to the site on Commonwealth and Basque Avenues, if development plans go through.  

Mayor Doug Chaffee said he expects the council to move forward with the agreement.

“I would expect passage for sure, whether it’s three, four or five votes in favor, I don’t know,” Chaffee said in a Monday afternoon phone interview. It gives the Pathways people a chance to go in there and design and see what funding they can get.”

Pathways of Hope Executive Director David Gillanders said the organization is looking to build 80 units of permanent supportive housing, which will have staff oversight and support services like job counseling and financial advising.

“Our entire Pathways of Hope team will be co-located on the site. We’ll have ongoing, constant oversight of the property,” Gillanders said, adding two managers will live on site and daytime staff will provide mental health services, medical services, employment counseling and financial management services.

If approved, it would be the largest housing project Pathways of Hope has built. The organization owns another transitional homeless housing project in the city on Amerige Street and manages other properties.

If the council approves the negotiating agreement, Pathways will have six months to study the site and bring plans to the city. During the six-month study, which could be extended three months by City Manager Ken Domer, the nonprofit is required to host at least two community meetings and notify residents who live within 300 feet of the property. The development plans will then go through normal land-use approval procedures like planning commission hearings and ultimately need City Council approval.

Chaffee said the land, which currently is being used as a city equipment storage yard, was used for various manufacturing purposes in the past and could have some environmental clean up involved.

City Manager Ken Domer said Pathways of Hope approached the city about the land. He said the land could be challenging to develop because of its triangle shape. The land is next to railroad tracks and Commonwealth Avenue, across the street from a residential neighborhood.

“But it’ll be during this time period they come up with some plans and some estimates,” Domer said, adding that funding could come “anywhere and everywhere. That’s the big issue right now, everyone’s looking for funding.”

Domer said the city and the nonprofit would approach the county for funding opportunities.

The Association of California Cities — Orange County, a city advocacy group most OC cities belong to, has been calling for 2,700 additional permanent supportive housing units in Orange County. The plan has gained traction at numerous city councils and has support from United Way, another advocacy group that focuses on poor people in Orange County.

Domer said Fullerton’s share of that number is roughly 120 units.

Fullerton, Anaheim and Buena Park teamed up in late April in an unofficial coalition to find a site for a homeless shelter in one of the three cities.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter has asked for a site from one of the three cities. Carter is overseeing two lawsuits against the county for evicting the people living on the Santa Ana Riverbed without providing a shelter or place for them to go. Orange, Anaheim and Costa Mesa are also named in one of the lawsuits.

Carter wants potential shelter sites spread throughout north, central and south county locations. Cities will report to him at a June 13 court hearing.

And the Orange County Grand Jury released a report Thursday that called on the cities and county to stop infighting and form a regional body to build supportive housing, the kind of housing Pathways of Hope is looking to build in Fullerton.

Domer said finding a homeless shelter site has been challenging.

“It’s always a struggle to find a site for available land or a property owner willing to lease it out for those reasons, but we will comply with the judge’s request and bring in a potential site,” Domer said.

Chaffee said the three-city joint venture shelter would operate similar to Bridges at Kraemer Place in Anaheim, which Fullerton pitched in $500,000 to help fund.

“The first issue is always: Can we find a site? And we can’t even publish a site until it’s secured, because the local NIMBYs get excited and the price goes up, sorry to say,” Chaffee said, adding then the cities would “pony-up some money and ask the county to come in and do the rest.”

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers south Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org.

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