Orange County Changed Mind, Fast

Their idea of new shelters for the homeless did not last long, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

An excerpt.

SANTA ANA, Calif.—Faced with a growing homeless population and a federal judge’s order to find shelter for hundreds of people living on the streets, Orange County lawmakers recently devised a plan: Open as many as three temporary shelters across this coastal county.

It didn’t last a week.

On Tuesday, county supervisors scrapped the plan for the shelters, following days of furious blowback from residents who accused them of trying to erect “tent cities” that would turn upscale neighborhoods into skid rows.

As homeless populations continue to climb in cities along the West Coast—fueled by the dwindling stock of affordable housing—the battle in Orange County, a wealthy enclave south of Los Angeles, demonstrates one of the enduring challenges of getting people off the streets: Few communities will agree to house them.

The question of where to shelter the homeless is now pitting Orange County’s 34 cities against one another, with each arguing that temporary homeless shelters don’t belong there, and blaming the county for failing to tackle the problem until it was too late.

In response to a federal lawsuit filed in January a judge ordered county officials to find shelter for hundreds of people who were cleared out of an encampment along the Santa Ana riverbed last month.

The county agreed to provide 30-day motel vouchers for nearly 700 people, and hoped to move them into shelters and other housing within the month. Many of the motel vouchers expire this week, and no one is sure where those staying in the motels will go.

Shawn Nelson, an Orange County Supervisor, said the hope was that after the judicial order, local cities would help the county address the crisis, “but there are no volunteers.”

All three cities where temporary shelters had been proposed—Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel—threatened to file their own lawsuits against the county if the plan were enacted, arguing that it placed an unfair burden on their communities.

On Tuesday, more than 1,000 protesters surrounded the county’s board of supervisors meeting in Santa Ana—the latest in a series of heated meetings on the issue this month—waving signs that read: “No Tent City in Irvine” and “No Drugs Near Our Schools.”

During the meeting, officials from cities throughout the county argued that they, too, shouldn’t host temporary shelters, citing the proximity of proposed sites to public parks, schools, day-care facilities and libraries.

“We’ve taken the brunt,” said Valerie Amezcua, president of the school board in Santa Ana, one of the less affluent cities in the county, where homeless encampments already dot sidewalks.

“Our kids can’t use the libraries. Our kids go to school in the morning, and somebody is sleeping in front of our schools,” Ms. Amezcua said at the meeting.

Christina L. Shea, the mayor pro tem of Irvine, said in an interview that Orange County had waited too long to deal with the crisis. “Because the county has chosen to close their eyes and not solve the problem, all of a sudden they’re saying, just build a tent here next to $1 million homes,” she said.

Ultimately, county officials not only backed away from the plan they had ostensibly supported only last week, but also apologized for it.

Retrieved March 30, 2018 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/orange-county-was-set-to-house-the-homeless-and-there-was-a-popular-revolt-1522324800?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1

Another take on the story came from the Los Angeles Times, see http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-homeless-asians-20180401-story.html

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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