Just steps from where homeless people camp in Santa Ana every night, the Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan Tuesday to spend $3.6 million for a Santa Ana warehouse that will be converted into a year-round shelter.
You may recall the supervisors tried to cut a deal to open a shelter in Fullerton, only to be shot down by that town's City Council in June 2013. Neighbors who feared crime captured the ear of three council members who tipped the scale in favor of pooh-poohing the county plan.
Supervisors heard more of the same Tuesday from neighbors of 1217 E. Normandy Place, Santa Ana. But, as City News Service reports, board Chairman Shawn Nelson was hearing none of it. Noting he used to live “three doors down” from the armory in Fullerton that serves as a temporary homeless shelter during cold months, Nelson observed, “Everyone's in favor of solving homelessness with the one exception–the person who lives there. The neighbors' concerns matter, but the operators are exceptionally good neighbors. … They want and will do a good job. They're part of your community and they act like it.”
Nelson also brushed back concerns raised by Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who wanted to ensure registered sex offenders could be weeded out from the program. Nelson, who co-authored the county ordinance that banned registered perverts from public parks, called Spitzer's idea unrealistic and not really appropriate for a discussion on acquiring property.
“Who knows who's outside your kid's school right now. I guarantee you don't know,” Nelson said. “And a homeless shelter isn't going to change that. … This is an attempt to address an issue we've discussed for years.”
Two years ago the supervisors unveiled an ambitious plan to end homelessness in Orange County in a decade. A year-round shelter was a cornerstone to that plan. Indeed, among those supporting the shelter were some of the hundreds who camp at the Santa Ana Civic Center, the same government complex where you'll find the Board of Supes chambers.
However, it's possible those supporters first came inside for the air conditioning.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.