Fullerton To Get Its First Year-Round Homeless Shelter

SPENCER CUSTODIO, Voice of OC

The homeless camp on the corner of Gilbert Street and Valencia Avenue in Fullerton. Residents have been voicing their concerns about the camp to the City Councils for months. The city cleared the camp in December. Oct. 9, 2019.

Fullerton will soon have its first year-round homeless shelter after City Councilmembers on Tuesday authorized a 150-bed shelter and recuperative care center for people recovering from injuries. 

The City Council voted 4-1, with Councilman Bruce Whitaker dissenting.

While there wasn’t the usual opposition from residents, a business next to the shelter near Magnolia and Commonwealth Avenues appealed the Planning Commission’s December approval. 

Ashwill Family LP, the company appealing the shelter permit, said the proposed shelter lacks enough security measures, is inconsistent with the surrounding land uses and will decrease property values, according to the appeal form.

Whitaker criticized the process for a lack of transparency and said the city should’ve worked with residents and businesses more. 

“This particular location, I think got off on a fairly bad foot,” Whitaker said. “I think the burden is to show the process is transparent … there was a fair amount of distrust generated early.” 

But other Councilmembers countered Whitaker noting that various religious groups along with the shelter operator and the nonprofit Illumination Foundation, did a lot of footwork to build community support. 

“I just have to say the whole hearing tonight has been a real blessing to me. I just never thought that dealing with the whole issue of homelessness that we would have a hearing as respectful as this was … so you’ve really blessed my heart tonight,” Mayor Fitzgerald told the audience. 

The Illumination Foundation has been working with Ashwill and nearby businesses to address their concerns, like raising the fence to eight feet and informing people about the shelter’s security, which includes metal detectors and its no illegal drug use policy.  

The Foundation’s CEO, Paul Leon, said he’s been working with nearby residents and businesses. 

He’s also had help from Father Dennis Kriz, who heads up the Tri Parish Coalition — an interfaith group that advocates for homeless shelters and housing. Kriz has also written various Voice of OC opinion articles detailing the deaths of homeless people throughout Orange County. 

The Council chambers were packed with Tri Parish members and their supporters, who all wore white.  

“Because of your support and your advocacy, you have made our decision very easy tonight. I thank you for that,” Councilwoman Jan Flory said. 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio