Anaheim Poised to Expand Salvation Army Homeless Shelter

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

A sign placed on the Broadway side of Maxwell Park, where a nearly 30-tent homeless encampment was until it was cleared out by Anaheim city officials and people were sent to a 200-bed homeless shelter. Dec. 21, 2018.

Anaheim City Councilmembers today are expected to choose between building a new homeless shelter in West Anaheim or expanding an existing Salvation Army Shelter near the Platinum Triangle. 

The City Council is likely to choose the Salvation Army’s proposal to expand its existing shelter by another 50 to 100 beds because it’s cheaper and can get the beds faster, compared to the Illumination Foundation’s proposal, according to city staff reports. Both organizations are nonprofits who have experience providing homeless services.

Tuesday’s proposal is the result of Councilman Jordan Brandman’s request at the end of the Nov. 5 Council meeting. He said he wanted the new shelter beds in District 2, which he represents, in order to spread out shelter beds across the city. 

All of the current homeless shelters are in District 5, in the Angel Stadium and Honda Center area. Councilman Steven Faessel represents the District. 

According to the staff report, city staff and the ad hoc homeless committee is recommending the Salvation Army proposal because the additional beds can be up and running within three months, compared to Illumination Foundation’s September target date for a shelter that could have up to 200 beds.

The Salvation Army proposal is also cheaper — $868,000 annually for 50 beds and $1.73 million for 100 beds. The Foundation’s cost is $1.77 million for 50 beds and $2.38 million for 100 beds, but their proposal notes 200 beds will maximize cost effectiveness. 

The Illumination Foundation runs a shelter in Anaheim after it opened its 102-bed La Mesa shelter early last year. 

The Salvation Army’s shelter also opened early last year and has 200 beds. 

Anaheim isn’t alone in building new homeless shelters. 

The Fullerton City Council authorized a 150-bed shelter Jan. 21, including 60 recuperative care beds for homeless people who need a place to recover from medical treatments. 

Fullerton and Anaheim are in the North Service Planning Area containing 11 other cities. Since 2018, the North County cities have teamed up in an effort to build at least 700 new shelter beds in the region with some cities hosting shelters, while other cities help fund construction and operation costs.  

The mutual efforts to address the growing homeless population are the result of a 2018 federal lawsuit against the County, Anaheim, Orange and Costa Mesa over homeless policies. 

Attorneys who represented homeless people living at the camp on the Santa Ana Riverbed said the County’s eviction would criminalize homeless people because they will be cited — and eventually jailed — for sleeping and loitering on public property. 

All cities were eventually roped into the case and U.S. District Judge David Carter warned cities against enforcing anti camping laws until enough shelter beds have been built for the homeless population. 

While Buena Park and Placentia will host homeless shelters, the other North County cities will help fund construction costs, along with operating costs.

Fullerton will contribute nearly 26 percent of the two shelters’ construction costs at $309,931 and the city’s share of the expected annual costs will be $34,558, according to the March 19 staff report. 

The new shelter in Fullerton is expected to open sometime in the spring, Placentia’s 100-bed shelter will open in March and Buena Park’s 150-bed shelter is expected to open in the summer, according to respective city officials. 

Meanwhile, Anaheim currently has at least 325 shelter beds split between the La Mesa shelter and the current set up at the Salvation Army shelter. There’s also a 200-bed County-run shelter, The Bridges at Kraemer Place, down the street from the La Mesa Shelter, tucked into an industrial center on the corner of La Palma Avenue and Kraemer Boulevard. 

There’s nearly 7,000 homeless people in Orange County, according to the biennial Point in Time Count, a federally mandated headcount of the homeless population. 

Anaheim has the largest number of homeless people in North County at roughly 1,200, followed by Fullerton at 473, according to the count. 

But the total homeless population could be higher.

CalOptima, which administers health insurance for poor people in Orange County, estimated about 10,000 of its members are homeless. The agency looked at a 12-month period for its count, instead of a two-day snapshot the Point in Time count used. 

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