The Tustin City Council is moving forward with a new temporary homeless shelter scheduled to open March 1.

The new 50-bed temporary shelter will be at the former Army Reserve Center at 2345 Barranca Parkway, adjacent to the District Shopping Center and about a half mile from the Irvine border. The site is also less than a mile from land the county is working to develop into an 84.5-acre regional park at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin.

“I have faith that Tustin and the County will keep the surrounding areas safe. The entire area south of Tustin needs more facilities and I applaud Tustin for their efforts,” said Irvine Mayor Don Wagner.

The council arrived at the present location after previously considering a site in Tustin Ranch near Heritage Elementary School. Concerned residents protested by forming a community action group, Protect Our Kids, and organizing a petition to recall Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Allan Bernstein. The recall petition and have since been taken down by Protect Our Kids.

The shelter will serve “homeless single men, single women, couples, and families with children living on the streets from the City of Tustin,” according to a city staff report. Registered sex offenders and those with felony convictions will not be admitted.

City officials agreed to have a new shelter open in Tustin or in another central Orange County city by Feb. 23, 2019, 120 days after signing a federal court settlement.

The city will allocate $986,343 from general fund reserves for construction and the first year of operating costs. These funds do not include utilities, which will be paid by the city. The shelter is scheduled to open the week of March 1, which is after the February 23 deadline. The city cites the change in location from the site near Heritage Elementary to the Army Reserve Center, as the reason for the delay, but said they have been working with the court to be in full compliance with the settlement by the beginning of March.

Before Tustin police can enforce its anti-camping laws against a homeless person, they must work with homeless outreach workers to offer an available shelter bed to the person, and provide transportation if the person wants to go to the shelter. People who decline the shelter offer can be subject to the anti-camping enforcement. Opening this new 50-bed shelter would provide additional beds that can be made available.

The map below shows the planned shelter location. If the map below does not display properly, please click here to view.

Initially the city planned to add 50 beds to the Village of Hope shelter operated by the Orange County Rescue Mission but an appellate court ruling stated that legally-compliant shelters must not have any religious component. Therefore, the Rescue Mission created a separate, non-religious shelter management entity — Temporary Shelter, Inc, to operate the new Tustin facility.

The OC Rescue Mission, a Christian charity which operates homeless shelters throughout the county, currently operates the Village of Hope and Veterans Outpost in Tustin. The nonprofit has been working with the city since the beginning of this project, according to Tustin City Manager Jeffery Parker.

Staff will work with residents to determine length-of-stay and will provide referrals to outside services, including Section 8 housing, drug detox programs and veterans resources.

The shelter will be staffed and open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Upon entry, each guest will be searched by drug-sniffing dogs and there will be a police liaison stationed on-site.

The Tustin Housing Authority plan will not allow walk-ups. People will need to be referred to the facility and transportation in and out will be coordinated by shelter staff.

Katie Licari is a Voice of OC spring intern.

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