Homelessness Information and Resources

Current News


At a special meeting to address the issue of Homelessness in the City on September 26, the Orange City Council received a comprehensive report from the Orange Police Chief Tom Kisela and City Manager Rick Otto on the subject. To read the report and powerpoint, click here. To watch the meeting in its entirety, click here. After the reports, and comments during the Public Hearing, the Council then directed the following actions:
  • Authorized the addition of two new Police Officer positions dedicated specifically to address calls for service related to homelessness issues.  These two positions will be in addition to the two existing HEART Team positions.
  • Increased the presence of the private security patrols in Orange.  The City currently has a contract in place with a private security firm to patrol our City Parks and Public Library facilities.
  • Directed the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance for consideration by the City Council prohibiting Aggressive Solicitation in the City of Orange.
  • Created three new City Council ad hoc committees to address specific aspects of the homelessness issues.  
  • A committee to work with surrounding cities on finding shared solutions and to address the homelessness issue holistically.
  • A Committee to advocate for the City on the homelessness issue on both the County and State levels, including the financial impact on our community and the City’s resources.
  • A committee to interface with our community, exchange information and ideas, and allow for our residents to provide direct feedback to the City government.

Background


Orange County has seen an unprecedented marked increase in the number of homeless persons using public spaces and right-of-way for camping or long-term habitation over the past several years. Orange and other cities along the Santa Ana Riverbed have felt the impact of this increase in several ways.  Areas within our City, such as our parks and creek beds, are attractive locations for homeless persons to gather. Those who have made camp on County controlled property, like the banks of Santa Ana River, come into Orange looking for supplies, food, or handouts. 

Quick facts

 
As of August 2017, there are approximately (per 2018 Point in Time count):
  • 4,800 homeless persons in Orange County
  • 675 homeless individuals within the City of Orange
  • 619 encampments in the Santa Ana Riverbed
It is not illegal to be homeless, but neither does being homeless mean you are exempt from obeying the law.

We are obligated to follow the State and Federal laws that clearly define the limits of what we are, and are not, able to do when addressing the impacts of homelessness.  The largest visible concentration of homeless persons is currently found along the banks of the Santa Ana River.  This area is not in the City of Orange and is out of the jurisdiction of the Orange Police Department. Responsibility for the riverbed belongs to the County of Orange and related agencies and the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Orange Outreach


Orange has been meeting the challenge of reducing our homeless population with the resources we have available. Our ongoing priority has been on the safety and to provide access to help for those who are open to receiving assistance. Working diligently with our local non-profit organizations, our Orange Police Department’s Homeless, Engagement, Assistance, & Resource Team (HEART) has been working with the local homeless population since 2013, and has identified some of the primary reasons that someone may find themselves homeless and living a transient lifestyle. They include:
  1. Those who are homeless due to circumstances beyond their control, and seek a return to self-sufficiency. 
  2. Those suffering from mental impairment, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other conditions that inhibit reasoning skills.
  3. Those who choose to be transient, refuse help, and choose to live outdoors, while observing the law.
  4. Those who refuse help, make a conscious choice to be homeless, and may be engaging in illegal activity such as theft, public intoxication, trespassing, aggressive panhandling, and vandalism.
Our HEART Officers have helped several people find a successful path back from the homeless life. To learn more about HEART, click here.

Orange Safety


It is important to note that as we discuss the City’s response to homelessness in Orange that we separate the discussion of our response within the City boundaries and our response within the Santa Ana River area (“River”). This is an important distinction as the City has significantly more control and ability to address issues with homelessness in our City parks, trails, public spaces, neighborhoods, and business districts. As such, the City has had good success in preventing camping and criminal activity in our parks and public spaces. Specific to general enforcement, there are two Orange Municipal Code (OMC) sections that address camping restrictions: 12.48.045 which prohibits camping in City parks and 12.66.030 which prohibits camping and obstructing public rights-of-way including sidewalks and other public spaces. In addition, OMC section 12.48.090 prohibits individuals from being in City parks after posted operating hours.

Conversely, as the Santa Ana River area is in the jurisdiction of the County of Orange and related agencies, our efforts has been hindered. While portions of the River are within the boundaries of the City of Orange, the River is owned and operated by the county. As such, the County is the primary jurisdictional authority for the River. While the County does have compatible park hours and right-of-way obstruction statutes, they have not been enforced by the Orange County Sheriff Department.

Recently, at the direction of the County of Orange Board of Supervisors, the Sheriff's Department has begun active patrols along the River. To support the Sheriff’s Department, Orange Police Department will be dedicating one police officer per week. This will be in addition to the HEART Team engagement. Specifically, Orange Police Department personnel will be working alongside Anaheim and Sheriff personnel as part of a multi-jurisdictional task force. In doing so, Orange Police Department will be continuing their strategy of compassionate but firm enforcement.

Contact Information


Who to contact if you need to report an incident with a homeless person
  • For crimes in progress, always call 911.
  • Within the City of Orange, contact the Orange Police Department at (714) 744-7444.
  • To report something outside the City of Orange's jurisdiction, such as on the Santa Ana River property, contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (714) 288-6742.

Helpful Links

  • Orange County's services available to assist homeless persons, click here.
  • Orange County's behavioral and mental health programs, click here.
  • 211OC, a resource for health and human service programs, including shelters, click here.
  • Food Pantries in Orange County by Waste Not OC, click here.
  • Orange County's Office of Care Coordination, click here.
  • Orange County Shelter Programs, click here.
  • To download a copy of the Pocket Guide Resource Directory, click here.
  • For a copy of the Office of Care Coordination Newsletter, click here.