Construction of Homeless Shelter in Santa Ana Up for County Approval Today

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

The site of the proposed Yale homeless shelter in Santa Ana on Wednesday, Nov. 18. 2019.

A proposed 425-bed homeless shelter in Santa Ana could clear a major hurdle today as its construction contract goes to county supervisors for approval.

The Yale Transitional Center would replace the Courtyard shelter in the Santa Ana Civic Center, where about 400 people sleep nightly. It would be located in an industrial area about a half-mile south of Santa Ana’s Centennial Park.

If approved by the supervisors, the nonprofit group HomeAid Orange County would pay $1 per year to lease the property for two years, and would be paid $25 million by the county for construction work. The shelter would be for homeless people in a central region that includes Santa Ana and Huntington Beach, but excludes south county, Anaheim, Orange, and other north county cities.

It would open in late 2020 or early 2021, according to county officials.

The proposal has generated concern from Santa Ana residents, many of whom feel the city has long done more than its share to shelter homeless people, and want other areas of the county to do more.

“The city is doing more than its fair share in providing services to the homeless,” Santa Ana Councilwoman Cecilia Iglesias said in an interview Monday. She took issue with the county’s plans to shelter homeless people from other OC cities – including places like Newport Beach – at the shelter.

The shelter, she said, is “just going to be a warehouse.”

“In six months, where are [homeless people] going to be? Do we have a plan for them to integrate into another community outside Santa Ana? These shelters don’t have those mechanisms in place,” she said.

The shelter’s biggest issue is the location, Iglesias said. Many of the businesses surrounding the Yale St. site are opposed to the shelter, and called it “shameful” that “the county is not listening” and has done what she viewed as inadequate outreach.

Few details of the $25 million construction plans have been released. The contract documents have a section for “construction drawings,” though it’s blank, other than saying it will “be added prior to execution” of the contract. Construction would be would be performed by the private firm C.W. Driver, and the work would be overseen by HomeAid.

The shelter will not allow homeless people to walk into the facility, instead relying on three pick-up and drop off places at locations that have not yet been announced. Transportation will also be offered for people leaving the shetler, though county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson declined to say if homeless people will be have the option of walking out of the shelter.

[Click here and here to read the county’s explanations of the proposed shelter.]

County officials say they do not need a zoning change from the city to convert the property into a shelter, nor abide by the city’s shelter standards.

Officials previously said in court that the Yale shelter would sleep up to 600 people at a time, though that number has since been reduced to 425 people.

Santa Ana city officials backed out of their involvement in the Yale St. shelter following months of public bickering with the county over each party’s role in the shelter’s construction.

The upcoming shelter, according to an agreement between the city and county, was purchased by the county for over $12 million in November last year on the understanding it would be opened jointly by both parties.

In April, Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do said he ordered a halt to all county work on the shelter, as city and county officials pointed fingers at each other over an alleged lack of public input on the effort to get the shelter online.

Santa Ana officials officially withdrew from their involvement in the project in an Oct. 23 letter to the county, citing an alleged lack of cooperation by county officials.

Several Santa Ana residents have voiced concerns over the Yale St. site, noting that schools and local businesses are within walking distance of the 425-bed proposed shelter.

At least one petition has appeared online to stop the shelter, generating more than 275 online signatures as of Monday night.

“This location is near Godinez High School and The Heritage Museum along with many local businesses,” the petition states. The shelter, it adds, “puts the whole area at risk and more importantly, it puts our children at risk.”

The city has also promised, as part of a federal court settlement, to replace its 200-bed temporary shelter opened a year ago, known as The Link, with a more permanent facility with the same capacity.

The shelter efforts are part of local government efforts to legally enforce anti-camping ordinances under court rulings by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Those rulings are now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.