Improving How We Address Homelessness
By: Supervisor Shawn Nelson, Chairman, Orange County Board of Supervisors
Over the course of the last several decades it has become vividly clear that the way we attempt to manage the issue of homelessness is not sufficient. To address this, Supervisor Shawn Nelson convened the North County Roundtable on Homelessness in February 2012. The group was comprised of stakeholders from north county cities, county agencies, Commission to End Homelessness members, the Fullerton Task Force, nonprofit organizations, and others. The Roundtable unanimously agreed that the lack of a year-round emergency shelter and multi-service center for homeless families and individuals has been the impediment to more effectively managing issues related to homelessness in North O.C.
Currently, the County rents the National Guard armory from December-April. It utilizes approximately 7,000 square feet and serves 200 clients. Additional costs are associated with the daily setting up and tearing down of a shelter program inside of a military facility. If the County acquires permanent emergency shelter sites, efficiencies will be achieved, thus significantly reducing operating costs. Further, the homeless can only access existing shelter from 6pm to 6am, which often creates more problems than it solves.
Subsequent to examining the current operations, Supervisor Nelson requested Roundtable Members and other community leaders to submit potential sites. After an exhaustive search for a location, Supervisor Nelson convened meetings with representatives from the City of Fullerton, OC Community Resources, Vanguard Commercial Real Estate and the Commission to End Homelessness. The group identified a number of potential sites that were proposed and reviewed. The property at 301 S. State College was ultimately identified as the best location.
The new location will be far more functional than the existing armory location because it will be open all year, it will not require all staff and guests to vacate every day for 12 hours and it will allow a permanent presence for service providers to address issues during the work day.
On January 15, 2013, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an Agreement for the one-story, 29,000 square foot building. This began a 150-day due diligence process.
The facility will partner with schools, cities, churches and other community stakeholders to find resources to move families and individuals out of crisis and into stability. Clients will be immediately connected to critical emergency shelter and services including job training, health care, mental health care, case management and transitional assistance to permanent housing and self-sufficiency. The 24/7 multi-service center will also be used to deliver an array of homeless prevention services for low-income, at-risk populations such as eviction prevention, food, clothing and alternative housing prior to a family actually becoming homeless.