The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved plans for a new homeless facility in Santa Ana to replace the emergency shelter at the old bus depot across from the county Hall of Administration.
The supervisors voted 4-1, with Orange County Board Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett dissenting, to begin work on construction and improvements on property at 2229 S. Yale St. to make way for the Yale Transitional Center for area transients.
Unlike the emergency shelter across from the Hall of Administration, known as the Courtyard, the Yale Street facility will be a transitional center that helps transients get back on their feet and into permanent housing.
Bartlett said she supported the Yale Street project, but voted no because she wanted it to be open to transients throughout the county, not just those in the Santa Ana area.
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do countered that it was necessary to restrict it to Santa Ana-area residents to discourage the potential of “dumping” of homeless people from other areas of the county into Santa Ana.
Multiple residents appealed to the supervisors to either delay or reject the project, with most arguing the city has done enough to shoulder the burden of sheltering the county’s transients.
Santa Ana Unified School District board President Valerie Amezcua and board member John Palacio spoke out against the Yale Street project.
Amezcua said there were five schools near the Yale Street site.
“At no time has Santa Ana Unified been approached by anyone to have a conversation on how we can work together” on outreach for the homeless center, Amezcua said. “We have parents coming to us asking us what are you doing about this? We can help you, but instead we were put in a corner as if our children don’t matter.”
Amezcua said transients in the city have been disrupting classes.
“We had an incident recently where a naked homeless man ran through our schools, frightening our children,” before trying to get into an employee’s car, Amezcua said. “Our police officers respond every day, all day long, to the homeless issues.”
Palacio said, “There are thousands of kids who live within a mile to two miles of the center.”
Santa Ana Planning Commissioner Angie Cano said the Yale Street site is also near the Heritage Museum.
“Santa Ana is one of the densest cities in Orange County. Our police response time is two hours,” Cano said. “Our city does not have the resources to take on more homeless residents.”
Supervisor Andrew Do said he agreed that Santa Ana has “borne the brunt of the responsibility and the burden of county services, especially the homeless,” but he doubted claims that transients were being dropped off from elsewhere in Santa Ana and left there.
“I have begged the Santa Ana City Council for years now to give me assistance to collect evidence to show that there is dumping going on,” Do said. “Arm me with information and I will be your bully pulpit. I will go out there and I’ll shame any jurisdiction that dumps on Santa Ana in my district.”
But no one has ever provided proof of the dumping, Do said.
Do also recounted how in 2014 the Santa Ana council had voted for a homeless shelter in an industrial area of the city in an agreement with the county, but dropped it at the last moment after public outcry. That led the county to convert the shuttered bus depot across from the Hall of Administration into the emergency shelter now known as the Courtyard.
The city proposed the Yale Street site, Do said. City officials even wanted to expand the capacity of the shelter from 425 beds, Do said.
“Your own city promised 250 beds in your own city, not just the Courtyard, but in addition to that,” he said, so that city officials could provide enough shelter for transients under legal guidelines that can authorize enforcement of anti-camping ordinances. If a municipality cannot show it has enough shelter for its transients, then it cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances.
“So the idea that … we are dumping on Santa Ana, that is a fiction, a fiction created for political purposes by politicians with no platform, no solution, and they find me a convenient target,” Do said.
The Courtyard is within seven schools, three daycare centers, nine churches, two public libraries and three community centers, Do said. It is not compliant with federal laws requiring access for the disabled, “so it is only a matter of time before we get sued,” he said.
The Yale Street center will be modeled after the Bridges at Kraemer Place in Anaheim, another county-run facility, Do said.
“Kraemer is a model because when you drive by you can’t tell where the shelter is,” Do said. “Yale Street will be run in that way. There is no walk-in and walk-out or walk-up service. You have to be referred into Yale Street by either a healthcare worker or Santa Ana PD.”
Loitering, trash and encampments will not be tolerated around the new center, Do said.
“There will be regular patrols, 24-7,” Do said, adding it is in an industrial area of the city.
“This was a site selected by the city, zoned by the city and suggested to the county to purchase to be a homeless shelter,” he said.
Do said he has done 50 or so “community coffees,” and the Yale Street project has been discussed at all of them.
“I’ve never run away from the Yale Street issue,” Do said.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee called the new facility a “remarkable step forward.”
Officials hope to open the new homeless facility by the end of next year.
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