OC Supervisors move to turn Transit Terminal into homeless shelter while seeking permanent plan

File: People living near  the Santa Ana River Trail  move their belongings in preparation for an Orange County law enforcement and public works
File: People living near the Santa Ana River Trail move their belongings in preparation for an Orange County law enforcement and public works "sweep" on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015.
Susanica Tam for KPCC

The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to turn the Santa Ana Transit Terminal into a transitional homeless shelter to open as soon as possible.

Supervisor Andrew Do, who represents Santa Ana and proposed the motion, called for the shelter to be running within 45 days with safe sleeping conditions, shower and bathing facilities, restrooms, food service and services for mental health and substance abuse problems.

“Our constituents are tired of talk and meaningless government resolutions. It’s time that we take action to help get people off the streets and onto a productive path,” Do said during the meeting. 

Supervisors Shawn Nelson and Todd Spitzer both said the Transit Terminal should be a temporary solution and that the problem needs a timely permanent solution.

The county purchased the Transit Terminal for $3.3 million from the Orange County Transportation Authority earlier this year, with advocates pushing for the space to be used for homeless services, though the board purchased the space without a long-term plan in place.

Spitzer added an amendment to the motion requiring county and city leaders to identify potential locations for a permanent homeless shelter site within 30 days.

“We should make Santa Ana put up or shut up now,” Spitzer said during the meeting's discussion. “We should put the question of an alternative site and really test the fortitude of their statements to see if they are real or to see if they are simply political."

That night, the Santa Ana City Council passed a resolution supporting the county's move and declaring homelessness a public health and safety crisis. The resolution also called for representatives from each of the county's 34 cities to come together to discuss homelessness.

The idea of establishing a permanent homeless shelter in Orange County has a long history. Past plans for sites in Santa Ana and Fullerton both were shut down after their city councils heard concerns from the community about safety.

A permanent shelter is underway in Anaheim at 1000 N. Kraemer Place, which the county purchased with the help of Anaheim, Fullerton and Brea, despite concerns from citizens that the shelter would create safety issues and lower home values.

Homelessness in Orange County is an ongoing problem, growing about 5 percent in the last two years. Deaths among Orange County's homeless also increased 53 percent in a two-year span from 2013 to 2015.