Costa Mesa Allocates Millions in Grant Funds for Permanent Shelter Pending County Approval

SPENCER CUSTODIO, Voice of OC

Two signs expressing people's opinion of the county's eviction of the Santa Ana Riverbed homeless camp shown here on Feb. 1, 2018.

Costa Mesa will be using more than $2.5 million in grant money from Orange County to help fund a permanent bridge shelter near John Wayne Airport.

Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow the city manager to accept the funds and use them toward the shelter pending approval from the county’s Board of Supervisors. 

“It’s been several years, many, many, many years of not getting any funding from the county, it is wonderful to finally see some funds flowing our way,” said Mayor Katrina Foley at the meeting Tuesday. “It’ll be at a critical time when we don’t have any additional extra cushion in our budget and this will help us to fulfill one of our priorities, which is to build this shelter and to do it correctly.”

The city is receiving the grant from the Orange County Health Care Agency specifically for homeless housing prevention and assistance. 

The shelter being built at 3175 Airway Ave., is expected to be completed in January. The money will help cover the $4.5 million cost of the construction, development and design of the facility. The city is also using a separate nearly $2 million federal grant to fund the rest of the project.

In March 2019, the city purchased the warehouse where the shelter is being built for close to $7 million which it paid for using general fund dollars and its reserves. The shelter is expected to accommodate over 70 beds when it opens.

In June, the city authorized a $3.7 million contract with Cerritos-based Cal-City Construction Inc., to build the shelter following years of legal bouts and advocates pressuring for more viable options for shelters and greater rights for homeless people in Orange County.

The creation of the shelter is a result of a lawsuit filed against the County of Orange, and the cities of Anaheim, Orange, and Costa Mesa in 2018 over the removal of homeless people from the Santa Ana riverbed.

In 2019, Costa Mesa reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs, the nonprofit group Orange County Catholic Worker and seven homeless individuals. The other cities also settled, opening emergency shelters of their own or planning to provide beds through other shelters.

In the northern part of Orange County, 13 cities have come together in partnership with the county to build two shelters — one in Buena Park and the other in Placentia — that combined can serve 250 people. The county gave $12 million to the partnership to build the shelters, according to a Costa Mesa staff report.

Costa Mesa — located in the central part of the county — is working with Newport Beach to address homelessness. The two cities are looking to partner up on the shelter near John Wayne. The partnership is expected to be approved by each city before the end of this year. 

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @[email protected] or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.