Huntington Beach officials are on a mission to end homelessness in three months.
Surf City’s new Republican council majority elected last year campaigned on a 90-day plan to end homelessness in the city and to challenge state mandates for local officials to zone for over 13,000 new homes in Huntington Beach.
At their meeting tonight, the Huntington Beach City Council is expected to vote on their proposed plan.
Click here to watch the 6 p.m. meeting.
Housing advocates have routinely criticized the lack of affordable housing in Orange County for fueling the homelessness crisis.
But Huntington Beach’s 90-day plan does not include anything on the creation of affordable homes – instead it focuses on improving communications with residents and business owners on homeless resources as well as targeted outreach to homeless people.
In the past, Councilwoman Gracey Van Der Mark has called for greater enforcement of anti-camping laws as part of the plan.
Immediately since taking office, Van Der Mark and the new council majority have fought against state mandated housing goals – which include thousands of affordable homes – intended to increase the city’s housing stock.
Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a lawsuit against the city for fighting the goals, while city officials launched their own lawsuit against the state over the housing goals.
[Read: California’s Battle With Huntington Beach Over Housing Goals Heads To Court]
“It’s the first major step to taking the Governor and state to task over their faulty narratives about housing and unconstitutional legislative and administrative means of stripping charter cities of their ability to make their own decisions,” said Mayor Tony Strickland at a news conference at City Hall earlier this month.
Strickland himself lives in affordable housing.
The council has also approved new rules limiting homeless activity at parks and parking structures – an action that Councilman Casey McKeon has in the past pointed out as being part of the 90-day plan to end homelessness.
[Read: Huntington Beach Moves on New Laws Targeting Homeless People in Parks and Parking Structures]
Brooke Weitzman, an attorney for the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, criticized the 90- day plan in a Jan. 17 letter as lacking concrete details, focusing on increased policing and said it would likely land the city into a lawsuit.
“We urge the City to abandon this unconstitutional approach and instead focus on providing evidence-based solutions such as increased housing and services to address the housing crisis. Criminalizing the most vulnerable members of the community is ineffective and harmful,” reads the letter.
In her letter, Weitzman also pointed out that many people have left the city homeless shelter that opened in 2020 without being connected to housing.
“Over the course of two years, only 162 people were successfully connected with ‘housing.’ Meanwhile, 632 people left the shelter without housing — either because they were unable to thrive in the conditions or were accused of violating a rule,” she wrote.
Last month, the county’s first homeless death review committee released its inaugural report on homeless people deaths in 2021 that showed deaths of people living on the street have been on the rise for the last decade.
The report shows that out of the 395 homeless people who died in OC in 2021, 17 of them died in Huntington Beach.
And according to the county’s 2022 point in time count, there were 330 homeless people in Huntington Beach last year and 188 of those people were unsheltered.
Officials in the neighboring city of Costa Mesa are utilizing Project Homekey – a state grant-funded program to buy motels and turn them into permanent homes for homeless people with onsite supportive services — to help address homelessness
[Read: From Motel 6 to Affordable Housing: Conversion Underway in Costa Mesa]
Huntington Beach’s proposed plan calls for an audit of the city’s programs for the homeless, updating the city’s homeless solutions website and overtime funding for homeless task force police officers to educate business owners and residents about community resources and property rights.
Officials are also calling for overtime funding for social workers to engage with homeless people – including a review of the cases of the people at the shelter who have been there for over six months, according to a staff report.
As part of the plan, council members are also proposing to fill the vacant social services supervisor position in the city as well as reclassify the vacant Homeless and Behavioral Health Services Director to a manager position.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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