Pathways of Hope will have to do at least three months of community outreach in Fullerton before the City Council considers an agreement to move forward on a homeless housing proposal on city-owned land.
The Fullerton City Council voted 3-0 Tuesday to postpone until Oct. 18 making a decision on a six-month exclusive negotiating agreement with nonprofit Pathways. Forty-one residents spoke during public comment, with most of them opposed to building the development on a city-owned storage yard on Commonwealth and Basque Avenues. Council members Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jesus Silva abstained.
“Pathways has been a great partner in the community — you guys do it right. If this thing moves forward, you guys will do a great job. I’m convinced of that, but you need to convince them (the residents) of that,” Councilman Greg Sebourn said.
Fitzgerald said the community outreach that a majority of the council wanted was included in the negotiating agreement.
“I will just say that entering into this [agreement] does give Pathways six months to work with the community,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think you’re going to find many nonprofits doing the work you’re asking them to do without (an agreement).”
The National Guard armory, which operates as a 200-bed nightly homeless shelter, is on Brookhurst Street and Valencia Avenue, a few blocks away from the proposed housing. The shelter was set to close April 15, until Gov. Jerry Brown on April 10 authorized a 90-day extension.
Residents said their neighborhoods already are flooded with homeless people from the armory and the proposed housing would bring more homeless people into the area.
Mayor Doug Chaffee said he wanted to postpone the negotiation agreement decision so the armory could close, which would give people a chance to see what the area looks like without the shelter operating.
But Pathways of Hope Executive Director David Gillanders said the “permanent supportive housing” units would be overseen by Pathways staff and their headquarters would move there, if approved. The supportive housing would provide services like medical and mental health care, job counseling and financial advising.
Gillanders also said the lack of a negotiating agreement could jeopardize funding.
“It makes the job of getting a lot of the core, foundational pieces of financing a project like this much more difficult … [and] at a pace that’s much more challenging,” Gillanders said in a Wednesday phone interview.
City Manager Ken Domer said the county doesn’t plan on funding the armory shelter again, since the Bridges at Kraemer Place homeless shelter in Anaheim is expected to be completed this year. The Kraemer shelter began operating in May 2017, sheltering 100 people and now shelters roughly 200 people.
“The end of the armory (shelter) was tied to the Bridges (at Kraemer Place) development,” Domer said Tuesday. “The county does not have the armory programmed into its consolidated plan next year, so there’s no funding for the armory next year — unless there’s an action to resurrect it, it’s not reopening once this extension is over with.”
Residents’ comparison of the homeless housing project to the armory program is wrong, Gillanders said during the council meeting and Wednesday’s phone interview.
“They’re apartments that come with supportive services and the analogies that people are drawing to the armory are not correct,” Gillanders said Wednesday. “It’s not going to be a shelter-style program, it’s going to be something that ends homelessness.”
Councilman Bruce Whitaker said that area of Fullerton has “shouldered the armory for a very long time,” and the city and Pathways may be moving too fast for residents and should do more community outreach.
“If it’s moving too swiftly. It feels like it’s being jammed down people’s throats,” Whitaker said.
He also said the homeless situation doesn’t seem to be getting better.
“Everyone’s sense is that homelessness is peaking …People are feeling besieged in Fullerton,” Whitaker said, adding he would like to see the neighborhoods “lifted up.”
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers south Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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