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OC hopes new shelter will reduce homeless camps in Santa Ana

A man and woman live in a makeshift camp outside the former Greyhound bus station in Santa Ana. Homeless services providers are working to open the station as a shelter on Oct. 6.
A man and woman live in a makeshift camp outside the former Greyhound bus station in Santa Ana. Homeless services providers are working to open the station as a shelter on Oct. 6.
KPCC/David Gorn
A man and woman live in a makeshift camp outside the former Greyhound bus station in Santa Ana. Homeless services providers are working to open the station as a shelter on Oct. 6.
A man and woman live in a makeshift camp outside the former Greyhound bus station in Santa Ana. Homeless services providers are working to open the station as a shelter on Oct. 6.
David Gorn/KPCC
A man and woman live in a makeshift camp outside the former Greyhound bus station in Santa Ana. Homeless services providers are working to open the station as a shelter on Oct. 6.
Johnny Cook, 55, has at times lived in the Santa Ana Riverbed with five other homeless men.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC


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Homeless services providers are working to open a new shelter in Orange County, in part to help reduce makeshift encampments outside the Santa Ana Civic Center. They're hoping to get the shelter up and running next week. The question is, will homeless folks go there?

Right now,  outside the doors of the civic center, folks in suits and ties have to run a gantlet of homeless people living on both sides of the main entrance. A small city of tents spreads out around the civic center, library and surrounding buildings.

In part to move them, in part to help them, city and county officials plan to open a homeless shelter on Oct. 6 at the old Greyhound bus station across the street.

That’s good news for Carmen Sanchez, who calls the sidewalk outside the station home. She has been outside the locked gate looking in at all that empty space.

 “We’re getting inside,” she said, smiling. “Because it’s open next month.”

But she's hearing that a lot of people at the civic center don't want to move: “They want to kick out those people,” she said of the many dozens of tents in the plaza. “But I don’t know if they’ll go.”

County Supervisor Andrew Do says police are preparing to enforce public nuisance laws to "regain control," as he puts it, of the civic center.

He said that, along with outreach efforts, should coax many of the homeless to make the move.

 “Like anything else, you win over a few people, and then they talk, right?” Do said. “Word gets around. And then you win over a few more people.”

Georgia Berkovich is spokesperson for Midnight Mission, which this week won a county contract to run the shelter. She said some of the volunteer services, such as free haircuts or music concerts, won’t start right away, but the bulk of the program will be in place next week. And that should help ease the crunch of homeless in front of many of those public buildings, she said.

“That’s the goal, we want the civic center to look different than it does now and bring those folks over and get them the help that they need,” Berkovich said.

The shelter is expected to serve up to 450 people during the day and 300 at night.