EDITORIAL: OC is failing its homeless citizens

In February, the Orange County Board of Supervisors shut down Santa Ana’s Courtyard Shelter, OC’s last walk-in homeless shelter. 

The Courtyard opened in 2016 to address the homelessness problem affecting Santa Ana. At the time, there were homeless encampments taking over nearby community centers, businesses and the Santa Ana Public Library. The shelter offered refuge to those living in the encampments and to those experiencing unexpected crisis’ such domestic violence at home.

The Courtyard closed just a few weeks after the Yale Transitional Center opened in Santa Ana. The Yale shelter was intended to replace the Courtyard, but has different requirements for admittance to its program. Before seeking shelter at Yale, potential residents must have a state issued ID, receive a referral from a health worker or the police, and be screened to determine if they are a good candidate for the shelter’s program.

The new shelter offers more services than the Courtyard, but it is limited those who have access to those services. In the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis, while the country, the state, and county are suffering record-high unemployment numbers, the Orange County Board of Supervisors is taking housing services away from those who need help the most.  

The homelessness crisis in California is out of control. The latest numbers estimate more than 150,000 individuals are currently houseless. Orange County has between 7,000-10,000 houseless residents. The solutions offered by state and local governments are not working. In 2019, California’s homeless population increased by over 16%. The transitional services offered by the Yale shelter could have been a step in the right direction, but on its march towards progress, the county has decided to leave people behind. Moreover, they’ve done it all without clear communication with Santa Ana officials or the public.

The Courtyard was closed without a press release, without notifying the local school district, or even the Santa Ana City Councilor who represents the district where the Courtyard was located.

The Voice of OC asked county officials what kind of outreach was made to city officials before closing the shelter and were told that the county held a forum about the closure in October of 2019. That was five months before COVID-19 drove California into lockdown, before an unemployment crisis that only exacerbated California’s ongoing homelessness problem.

Only after local media reported on the Couryard’s closure did the Board of Supervisors publicly acknowledge the decision. In a routine county supervisor’s public meeting, County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett went so far as to congratulate Chairman Andrew Do on the transition from the Courtyard to the Yale shelter.

The transition hasn’t gone as smoothly as they’ve implied. The L.A. Times recently published an article about a homeless encampment that is taking over the parking lot of El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a community center one block away from the closed shelter. The cultural center has allowed the many homeless residents to stay on their property because they no longer have anywhere else to go.

The county’s decision to close the shelter without notifying Santa Ana officials has left the city unprepared and without a plan to help those that the Yale shelter turns away.

Homelessness isn’t a nuisance. It’s a tragedy. The longer we allow our neighbors to remain  homeless, the more tragic it becomes. The only solution to homelessness is to provide readily available shelter and housing for every single person. We cannot continue to abandon our least fortunate neighbors and also expect the homeless crisis to simply go away.

(3) comments

Someone needs to hear me

myself and my wife have been out on the street close to three years now,how this happened,the city(s.a.)came after my familys property,was a full acre,now so many people of corporate interest came like well like a bunch of homeless thieves,tearing my fathers trust apart which i was named in,came with fake intentions of helping,even my owe attorney left me with no defence,the efort that was made to put my whole family in the street was for the street trolly,o.c.t.a.,c.o.s.a.,and a couple of dirty attorneys made no efort to help me from being robbed,my fathers trust was never acknowledged,we lost something my grandmother had worked so hard for in 1942 so her future family would always have a home,so yes s.a. is very shady from the funding it recieves to all the lies they put out,i have not recieved one penny,it all gos to the trolly and i will be heard

Thank You.

Clifford Driver

The County couldn't care less about this problem while it only finds itself getting worse. The county chose to not seriously address the problem going as far back as the 80's, when the YMCA was open, and they decided to close it. City Council people just aren't close enough to the problem, they prefer to look upon the situation as a nuisance more than anything else. Years ago SRO housing was talked about, housing that would be for the working poor. The problem with not coming to a consinus on the issue is it get worse not better. The county has the wrong individuals involved with the project to begin with, you need someone who will to give it there full attention and not just look upon it as a problem but find the solution, so far they haven't even come close as it problem only get worse

Deannpancheri

Solutions are needed to help our homeless families. Many are mentally ill and in need of social services and rehabilitation. And of course a warm safe place to rest their tired souls. Our government in California is reckless by passing laws that encourage people to keep taking benefits for covid-19 because they won't include language in the bills they pass that hold people accountable. Everyone should be back to work and looking for work and willing to accept a job if one is offered. If they deny it they should stop getting benefits! As an employer how can it be so hard to find employees when the UE rate is so high? Because people don't want to work and there is no fear of being evicted now. I see people buying cars with covid-19 money but not paying their landlord!! It is disgusting how we all see this and walk past a real issue like homelessness and ignore it. Stop making people dependent on government and start taking responsibility to give to only those that need and not those that enjoy the greed! This is a community issue and i would agree to pay 1 percent of gross wages provided the money went to a homeless program with three components. One it addresses the shelter, asseses their mental health and places those that need help into a program., creates job opportunities so they dont stay homeless and is a year program that gives people a chance to not be homeless. Not a freebie forever to live off the government money. Those that are mentally capable to work should work.

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