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Placentia city leaders have approved a $1.6 million per year contract for a nonprofit to run a professionally managed homeless shelter, a facility that will serve 13 northern Orange County cities.

People Assisting the Homeless, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, will operate and manage the 100-bed shelter, dubbed the Navigation Center, at 731 S. Melrose St.

The new center is scheduled to open in March and will provide housing, job placement, meals, transportation, legal and other services.

The 13 north Orange County cities that are part of the county’s north Service Planning Area will collectively fund the ongoing operation of the center in Placentia and another scheduled to open in Buena Park. No general fund money is being used for the operation of the center, according to a Placentia staff report.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 Oct. 15, to approve an agreement with People Assisting the Homeless.

Councilmember Chad Wanke dissented, voicing concerns about nonprofit group’s lack of presence in Orange County.

“I have a hard time approving an organization that is not in the area, they do not have a relationship with Placentia or Orange County. They do not fit my needs for what the city needs,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Ward Smith advocated for the group by stressing how important it is to make this operation “work on the first go.” Which is why, he said, he supports the decision to bring an experienced organization that will not just help Placentia but help the homeless in the entire 13 cities area.

The cities collectively have 2,765 homeless, of which 1,596 are unsheltered, according to the Orange County 2019 Point-in-Time count.

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