Orange County has about $62 million to spend on homeless services this year, not the hundreds of millions as suggested by a federal judge recently, officials said Tuesday at a special meeting of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
The supervisors called the meeting to get updates on their efforts to address homelessness and discuss plans to keep tackling the issue.
Board Chairman Andrew Do said the public has “bought into this narrative that the county is chipmonking this money” for the homeless. He noted that U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing litigation challenging anti-camping ordinances, pointed to a county-issued document showing it had about $300 million to spend on the homeless.
“The question is how much money do we really have?” Do asked the county Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim.
Kim said there is about $62 million left in a fund earmarked for mentally ill transients.
Kim also pointed out the county has fallen short on its reserves as recommended by bond rating agencies.
Kim acknowledged that the county was “too conservative” with funds received to provide services for the mentally ill in recent years.
The county started the fiscal year with $183 million, but over the past two months has spent $71.5 million. The county has also projected spending $18 million to renovate a new building that supervisors recently voted to acquire to provide mental health services to transients, Kim said.
The county is about $60 million short on its rainy day fund, Do said. The county should not fall short of guidelines when the economy is strong as it is now, Kim said.
“We’ve had an incredible run in our economy for the past seven years, which is when your reserves should be high,” Kim told the board.
If county officials want to devote more money to finding shelter for the area’s homeless then the cash will come out of another budget like the jail expansion, Do said.
“If people think we’re hiding something then go ahead and point it out to the board,” Do told City News Service after the meeting.
The activists who brought the federal lawsuit challenging the enforcement of anti-camping ordinances have added Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Orange and Anaheim to the litigation, Do said.
Several mayors of cities in the south portion of the county have a private meeting planned Thursday to discuss homelessness. Carter has challenged elected leaders from the southern cities to help provide shelter for transients in their area. In the past, Carter recently said, officials would send their transients to facilities in Santa Ana, a process he called “dumping.”
County officials have moved hundreds of transients out of encampments along the Santa Ana riverbed in Anaheim and scores more out of the civic center area in Santa Ana last week.