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Shelter Offers First Step On Path To Independent, Productive Lives

The Orange County Board of Supervisors will soon decide the fate of a proposed homeless multi-service center and year-round emergency shelter at the site of a vacant warehouse in Anaheim. The facility, located in an industrial park on N. Kraemer Place, near the 91, would provide temporary sleeping facilities for chronic or vulnerable homeless individuals and their families.

Naturally, concerns have been raised by nearby business owners and residents surrounding the area about impacts on property values, crime and quality of life. These same arguments essentially killed proposals for similar facilities elsewhere in Orange County, most recently in Fullerton and Santa Ana.

“This isn’t the right place,” the critics say, rarely specifying a preferred alternate location, just stating that there must be “somewhere else more appropriate.”

While these concerns are understandable, the fact is that homeless men and women are already with us, in nearly every Orange County community. According to the “Point in Time” homeless count conducted in January, there are over 4,400 homeless individuals in Orange County who, on any given day, can be found living in neighborhood parks, office and public buildings, creek beds and bus shelters. This is because we, as a community, simply haven’t offered a better alternative, or a way out. Unless something is done right now, the problem will continue getting worse.

That’s why United Way is proud to be part of a broad coalition of community leaders and organizations advocating support for this multi-service center and year-round shelter. Stable housing is a core component of our FACE 2024 community-wide action plan that focuses on cutting the number of homeless and housing-insecure children in half within the next decade while ensuring a strong infrastructure for housing for all local residents.

I’ve seen the impact of stable housing on families and am pleased that it’s a vital component of United Way’s strategic plan and a high priority at the County and city levels. It’s imperative that non-profits and governmental agencies work together along with community leaders and the business community to tackle the issue head-on in order to pave a sustainable road toward housing stability.

The proposed Anaheim center is a vital first step on that road as it establishes a critically needed “front door” through which homeless individuals and families can step to begin receiving critical health, housing and employment training services. The center will temporarily house those in immediate and dire need while utilizing the new “Coordinated Entry System” being implemented in Orange County to connect homeless individuals and families to appropriate shelter and permanent housing resources.

To address the concerns of neighbors, specific preparations have been made and restrictions enacted to ensure the status quo for neighboring businesses. For example, there will be no walk-up services or loitering permitted at the facility. Clients must make appointments and arrive via bus or the facility’s shuttles in order to reserve a space.

Additionally, a commitment has been made for 24-hour on-site security with patrols inside and outside of the facility as well as within a one-mile radius. The Anaheim Police Department has committed to partner in this community effort while enhancing patrols throughout the area. Every effort has been made to mitigate or eliminate any negative impacts.

We can no longer ignore the homeless among us in Orange County nor can we keep kicking the issue down the road so it’s someone else’s problem. The County and the city of Anaheim should be commended for their collaborative effort to establish this multi-service center and year-round emergency shelter at North Kraemer Place in Anaheim.

There is no better place or more appropriate time to do the right thing.

Max Gardner is president and CEO, Orange County United Way

Read the article on the OC Register’s website.

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