Orange County presents security plan for homeless shelter in Anaheim

People gather for a meeting discussing a proposed year-round Orange County homeless shelter in Anaheim on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.
People gather for a meeting discussing a proposed year-round Orange County homeless shelter in Anaheim on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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Anaheim business owners and residents are expected to pack a public forum Wednesday evening on a plan to build a year-round homeless shelter.  Cities in Orange County have played hot potato with the shelter's site for years, citing fears it would invite crime, overcrowding, nuisances, and lower property values.

On Wednesday, Orange County officials and city council members from Fullerton, Orange, and Anaheim are expected to discuss how the proposed 200-bed homeless shelter would be run. Police from those cities as well as from Placentia will present a public safety and security plan for the shelter.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Eastside Christian Church located at 3330 East Miraloma Avenue, Anaheim, CA 92806.

Orange County voted in June to purchase a $4.3 million warehouse at 1000 N. Kraemer Place in a mostly industrial part of North Anaheim with the intention to operate a year-round homeless shelter there, though no final decision on how the property will be used has been made.

The cities of Anaheim and Fullerton pitched in a combined $1 million to help Orange County purchase the site.

Back then, Orange County announced a handful of community meetings to discuss the proposed shelter but after first one, officials canceled the remaining ones saying they were taking into consideration comments and input given at that meeting.

Don Dormeyer, who owns Red Gum Creative Campus, has begun a campaign to create a business association called the Anaheim Canyon Business Alliance. The new group opposes the shelter and has been handing out yellow yard signs that read, “No 200-bed Homeless Shelter.”

He wrote an op-ed for the online news organization Voice of OC arguing that the shelter would be “counterproductive and particularly ‘unkind’ to the taxpaying businesses and the thousands of taxpaying employees. It damages the area’s ability to add thousands of new taxpaying jobs and help Anaheim’s economy.”

Dormeyer wrote that smaller community shelters were a better idea and that putting people into permanent housing was an even better solution.

Orange County has struggled to find a place to build a permanent emergency shelter for the homeless that would be open year-round and to anyone.

Although there area a couple of small emergency shelters that operate 24/7, the homeless in Orange County generally depend on the Armories in Santa Ana and Fullerton, which sleep 200 people each on gym mats, that are open only at nights and only during the winter months.

Angry neighbors from Fullerton and Santa Ana shutdown efforts in the past two years to put a new shelter in those cities and a short-lived attempt to locate one at a different site in Anaheim also fell through.

One of the complaints opponents have about this new proposed site in Anaheim is that other communities would send their homeless residents to the new shelter creating a de facto drop-off center.

But homeless advocates disagree. 

“It makes absolutely no sense to go outside the city of Anaheim to get 200 homeless people, when there’s more than that right there,” Larry Smith, with the Santa Ana group Civic Center Roundtable told KPCC.

Results from the most recent census of the homeless population in Orange County estimates there were 646 people sleeping outdoors, unsheltered in an area that includes the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Brea, Fullerton, La Habra and Placentia. 

Orange County’s homeless population has increased five percent in the last two years.