An Orange County grand jury report released Thursday calls on officials throughout the region to summon the political will to overcome obstacles such as NIMBYism and lack of funding that stymie solutions to homelessness.
One of the main problems is finger-pointing among city and county leaders, who mistrust each other when it comes to the issue, according to the panel. Also, cities are taking a “silo approach” to addressing the problem, preferring to go it alone rather than uniting with neighbors and adopting regional solutions, the grand jury found.
“The Grand Jury discovered a number of roadblocks to developing additional permanent supporting housing in Orange County, none more challenging than the lack of leadership from, and collaboration between, county and city officials,” the report states. “Other significant roadblocks certainly exist, such as resident resistance, the difficulty in locating sites on which to build housing, and the lack of sustainable funding sources. However, the degree of finger-pointing and lack of trust that exists between the county and the cities, and even among the cities themselves, makes it extremely difficult to address any of the impediments identified in this report.”
The grand jury recommended the formation of a “regional body empowered to develop and implement a comprehensive business plan for siting and funding permanent supporting housing development,” noting that Utah adopted such a Joint Powers authority of civic, political and nonprofit leaders that significantly reduced the number of transients in that state.
The grand jury also pointed out how some cities have asked voters to approve measures to fund housing so they don’t have to rely on iffy state funding.
The report notes there was an 8 percent increase in the number of homeless from 2015 to 2017, the last time a count was done, and that experts say the actual number of transients may be much higher.
The grand jury posits that committing to more stable housing with various wrap-around services for the homeless would save money for cities and counties since it would increase the health of transients and reduce the expense of law enforcement.