Orange County supervisors unanimously approved a plan today to spend $3.6 million acquiring property in Santa Ana for a year-round homeless shelter.
The county intends to buy warehouse space at 1217 E. Normandy Place as part of its 10-year plan to end homelessness, which supervisors approved in January 2012.
During cold weather months, most of the area's chronically homeless rely on the county's Armory Emergency Shelter Program, which has about 400 beds, but it is closed during warmer weather.
County officials thought they had a deal for a year-round homeless center in Fullerton last year, but the City Council shot it down on a 3-2 vote in June 2013.
The Santa Ana site drew some of the same complaints directed at the Fullerton proposal, with neighbors complaining during today's supervisors meeting that a homeless shelter would bring more crime.
Orange County Board Chairman Shawn Nelson had little sympathy for the complainers. He used to live "three doors down" from the armory in Fullerton.
"Everyone's in favor of solving homelessness with the one exception -- the person who lives there," Nelson said. "The neighbors' concerns matter, but the operators are exceptionally good neighbors .... They want and will do a good job. They're part of your community and they act like it."
When the Fullerton proposal was considered last year, "We heard the same exact issues," Nelson said.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer said there had to be a way for security guards to check whether any of the transients are registered sex offenders. But Nelson said that was unrealistic and shouldn't slow down the acquisition of the property.
"Who knows who's outside your kid's school right now. I guarantee you don't know," Nelson said. "And a homeless shelter isn't going to change that .... This is an attempt to address an issue we've discussed for years."
It would be unrealistic to find a spot farther from schools, because of the density of Santa Ana, Nelson said.
"We don't have many places in Orange County without schools," Nelson said.
Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who represents the area where the shelter would be, said it was more than 1,000 feet from the closest school.
Several homeless people among the hundreds who camp in the Civic Center, where supervisors hold their meetings, spoke in support of the new shelter.
The 56,942-square-foot property being eyed by the county includes a 23,220-square-foot warehouse built in July 2000. It has 44 parking spaces.
County decision makers will scrutinize the deal and review the property during a 90-day escrow. Operating the shelter would cost about $2.6 million annually, county officials said.
--City News Service