Orange and North Orange County Cities Join Forces to Find Solutions to Homelessness
The effects of chronic homelessness have been felt by every city in Orange County. In order to help address the issue, and find ways to address the underlying problems that lead to homelessness, Orange has joined with the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Placentia, Villa Park, Stanton, and Yorba Linda in an unprecedented partnership called the North Service Planning Area (SPA). The North SPA Partnership is a joint collaboration that includes two full-service Navigation Centers to provide help to the region’s homeless. The Buena Park Center and the Placentia Center will provide homeless individuals a total of 250 beds, health resources, job skill training, and the ability to reconnect with lost family. These facilities join the two shelters already built by the City of Anaheim, which house another 326 beds.
In early 2018, in response to public outcry, the County of Orange evicted the homeless living along the Santa Ana River Trail. When the original plans for the evictions became public, the County and several cities were sued, alleging that local anti-camping ordinances were a violation of the constitutional rights of the homeless. At nearly the same time, the United States Court of Appeals, in an unrelated suit, ruled that anti-camping ordinances may not be enforced on Public property when there are no local shelter beds available.
The North SPA partnership was formed as part of an agreement to settle this suit and avoid further costly litigation.
While each of the North SPA Cities contribute funding toward, a majority of the funds come from non-general fund sources. In late 2018, the State of California awarded the North SPA $12 million dollars in Homeless Emergency Aid Program funding, and the County of Orange has committed both $6.5 million dollars for the construction of shelters, and $1.5 million dollars annually for operations.
In addition to our participation in the North SPA, Orange has undertaken several other initiatives over the past few years to address our local homelessness issue. We partnered with HomeAid of Orange County to develop the Orange Family Care Center, which specializes in serving the needs of families who have found themselves homeless.
The Orange Police Department’s Homeless Engagement, Assistance & Resource Team (HEART) program has been operating since 2013. HEART Officers engage daily with our local homeless individuals, working with them one-on-one to help facilitate their re-entry back into mainstream society.
Mary’s Kitchen, which is located on City provided land, has just had their agreement renewed for another five years. Around 200 homeless and less fortunate individuals are served each day at Mary’s Kitchen.
Increasing the availability of affordable housing is also an important key to solving the homelessness crisis. Here in Orange, we also have a long history of encouraging the development of affordable housing projects. In Orange, we have one of the highest number of such units anywhere in the County.
The problem of homelessness in our City and County is one that has been growing for a long time. This is not a problem that will go away in a day, or be solved in a few months. One of the first steps will be learn how we can best mitigate the impacts our local homeless population has on our City’s residents and businesses. Transitioning our homeless population out of that lifestyle will be an easier adjustment when there is a mutual agreement to co-exist.
The goal of a homeless future is one we can all agree on. Together with our County and City partners, we are working to find both short-term and long-term solutions for a future where those without homes may find help and hope.
For more information on the regional homelessness response, click here.