Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at squick@voiceofoc.org.

In the face of growing concern over the rising homeless population in Newport Beach officials are trying to establish a new homeless shelter. Dozens of residents protested outside City Hall during a council meeting earlier this month, expressing concerns about the locations under consideration.

Following a September 2018 Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals decision that said removing homeless individuals from encampments without an alternative place for them to go constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, Newport Beach is among several Orange County cities scrambling to provide emergency shelter. 

According to the Orange County 2019 Point in Time Count, Newport Beach has 64 homeless individuals, all of whom are unsheltered. Newport Beach does not currently have any shelters for the homeless. 

“Broadly, we are trying to find the best, most economical way to move forward with temporary shelter, and then also, further along, permanent housing,” said Councilmember Brad Avery, who’s also on the city’s homelessness taskforce. 

The city has been in closed session negotiations about three properties as potential locations for a homeless shelter: 4200 Campus Drive in Newport Beach; 3175 Airway Ave., in Costa Mesa; and, 1885 Anaheim Ave., also in Costa Mesa.

However, during a September Newport City Council meeting, city staff proposed a shelter at the city corporation yard at 592 Superior Ave., proposing use of trailers at the site or repurposing a warehouse or a garage into a shelter, budgeting $300,000 for the conceptual design and development of the project.

Then, during the Oct. 8 council meeting, protesters voiced concerns about having a new shelter near their neighborhood. 

“We’ve got children, 8 and 10, that we’re concerned about,” said Newport Beach resident Manny Ramirez. “You know, many of the homeless, not all, but many have mental health issues or they’re high and that’s just a safety concern for us. That’s the primary driver.” 

Another concerned citizen spoke out during public comments about the possibility of the corporation yard location for the homeless shelter, near his home.

“Nobody that came tonight (is) saying we don’t want a homeless shelter,” the resident told the council. “What we’re saying is that our area of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa is already completely overloaded with so many issues with the homeless that we’ve had since being here. Now to find out that we’re going to have a homeless shelter, potentially 400 feet away from an 8-month-old baby who is sleeping, it’s just, it’s not palatable.”

Council members plan to discuss more specifics once their closed session negotiations reach a conclusion.

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