NORTH ORANGE COUNTY SERVICE PLANNING AREA (NORTH SPA) RECEIVES $12,062,300 IN HOMELESS EMERGENCY AID PROGRAM (HEAP) FUNDING TO OPEN NAVIGATION CENTER IN BUENA PARK AND PLACENTIA
On November 7, 2018, the North Orange County Service Planning Area (“North SPA”) was awarded $12,062,300 in Homeless Emergency Aid Program (“HEAP”) funding from the State of California via the Orange County Continuum of Care Board. The funding is designed to provide direct assistance to cities and counties to address the homelessness crisis throughout California.
According to the 2017 Point in Time Count report, approximately 4,792 people in Orange County experienced homelessness, a 7% increase from 2015. A total of 2,584 of those were unsheltered on any given night, including 357 unsheltered veterans. One study also found that roughly 75% of homeless in the community either went to school in that city or listed that city as their last permanent address.
The North SPA, comprised of the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Orange, Placentia, Villa Park, Stanton, and Yorba Linda, has been working collectively over the past several months to find suitable locations for multiple shelters to provide homeless neighbors in the region with needed services. Earlier this year, a lawsuit was filed against several Orange County cities, which threatened the validity of anti-camping laws in those cities and other cities in the county. Without anti-camping laws in place, cities would not be able to prohibit homeless encampments in public spaces, including sidewalks, parkways, parks, community centers, etc. Although Buena Park was not named in the lawsuit, initial meetings with Honorable Judge David O. Carter, who is presiding over the lawsuit, made it clear that this needed to be a regional effort. With public safety and welfare at stake, the North SPA cities banded together to guide the process of finding suitable locations for proposed homeless shelters. After months of extensive discussions, two locations were proposed – one in Buena Park, 7101 Lincoln Avenue, and the other in Placentia.
The proposed Buena Park site or “navigation center” will be a key step in guiding homeless neighbors back into society by increasing access to a shelter with basic needs, health and job resources, and opportunities to reunite with friends and family. The proposed center will be funded with a portion of the HEAP funding award in the amount of $6,412,300, as well as additional funding from all of the participating North SPA cities and any other grant funding that may be obtained. The North SPA cities are currently working on a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) that will outline each city’s financial obligation as well as the overall management of the facility. This document will require approval from each respective City Council in the North SPA prior to execution.
The proposed Buena Park center was identified due to the already high number of homeless neighbors within the area. The center will still need to go through the public process prior to becoming a reality, but is targeted for opening mid 2019. The Buena Park City Council has directed staff to keep all interested parties within proximity of the proposed site properly noticed so they can be engaged as important decisions are made. The North SPA also will need to select a service provider to operate the navigation center and provide around-the-clock care to the individuals located at that site. As with the Bridges at Kramer facility that has had minimal impact to the surrounding community, the center will only receive clients on a referral-basis; walk-ins will not be accepted. Additionally, the center will include strict operating requirements and 24-hour, on-site security. Beds at this location will be designated for North SPA cities only.
By working to open these two navigation centers in the north Orange County area, the North SPA believes that it has complied with the federal mandate of Honorable David O. Carter, United States District Court Judge, which threatened to prohibit cities from enforcing anti-camping laws if additional shelters or alternative housing were not provided. It is also believed these navigation centers will be in line with the recent ruling made in the Martin v. the City of Boise that ruled that anti-camping laws violated homeless neighbors’ constitutional rights as there was no other low-barrier shelter options. Overall, the North SPA believes that both the Buena Park and Placentia navigation centers are part of the regions’ commitment to continue to provide homeless neighbors with the supportive services they need.