The never ending homeless crisis in Anaheim is possibly going to have immediate, but temporary solutions.
Despite the city of Anaheim investing $1.1 million into a homeless shelter reportedly coming late 2017, the homeless community are still camping tents in multiple parks, areas between apartment complexes and even off the side of the 91 freeway, as Anaheim city council member Jose Moreno explained.
So the biggest question is, where do they sleep now until this shelter is built?
On Thursday, March 9, in a lot located at the GOALS Academy Charter School’s parking lot next to Glover Stadium, Anaheim community members brought in Moreno to gather feedback from residents to have an idea of what his constituents want to see regarding this calamity.
Residents, Moreno and even a member of the homeless community offered and supported the concept of building a “safe space” near the UEI College building and the Carl Karcher building on Harbor Boulevard.
The space would serve as an area for transient people to camp instead of having to constantly receive 24 hour notices to leave by the police.
Aside from being a space for the homeless to settle for the time being, the community members want to provide an area that is completely protected from abuse and any other type of harm.
When asked about why he is in support of the concept of the proposed safe space, Moreno replied, “They’re going to be out in the streets anyways, is there a way to provide some structure to it or to provide a space where folks can congregate? So I love the idea. I love the heart behind it, the compassion behind it, the humanity behind it.”
Council members also noted that there are some problems with building safe spaces since there will be a multitude of people. It’ll be hard to monitor all the people who choose to reside in the space, therefore making it unsafe for some that choose to relocate there.
Though there are safety concerns, there will be the need for more resources just for the space alone, which will require staffing, construction of more public showers and restrooms, and more wraparound services for the space. All of which Moreno stated he does not mind exploring into.
“I think it’s an absolute necessity. We need to have an area designated for when people do fall off or if there was something, then I’d absolutely want to have a place that I knew I could go to,” Bryan Kaye said, a local homeless business owner.
Billie Joe Wright, an educator at William Workman High School in the City of Industry, feels that the safe space concept is a viable part of a solution and there are a lot of wraparound resources that should be considered and promoted.
However, he feels there needs to be consideration to the potential location of where the safe space will be, as he wants kids to feel safe in their community and use the space to educate.
Wright wants to tell the children that these people are not just homeless, but that they are also “a part of the fabric of the community.”
Though most community members attending were in support of these safe spaces, Chris Villatoro, a veteran, feels that the safe-space concept is not the right solution.
Once a resident in Berkeley, Villatoro shared his experience of the effects of what opening a safe space was like there.
People’s Park, located near the University of California, Berkeley, turned from a safe space into a “transient haven,” as described by the veteran.
People’s Park is similar to the safe-space concept Moreno has proposed. However, Villatoro explained that the homeless community and other residents of the Berkeley area turned the supposed community zone into an area of illegal activities without much reprimand.
He offered the idea of adopting what New York has done in terms of the homeless crisis there – “deporting” homeless people who’re from outside the state of New York back to their hometowns.
However, despite Villatoro’s advocating for some sort of homeless-deportation option, much of the community heavily disagreed with his stance.
There was $6.1 billion projected for Orange County’s total budget this year, Moreno reported that that City Council and Orange County has spent $94 million on the homeless crisis.
He added that Anaheim is focused on incentivizing and subsidizing luxury hotel developments, encouraging them to provide cheaper rooms so that individuals in need of a place to stay can afford it.
When asked about how much this safe space will cost, Moreno replied that he doesn’t currently know how much the overhead will be as the county will not give the funding and support as much as he’s asked.
He wants the county to make resources available to all the cities, allowing them to use it for the community to band together, and to contact local supervisors, specifically Shawn Nelson and the Director of Care Coordinator, Susan Price, so that they can come to the local meetings and work with each other to fix the problem.
The county’s first year-round homeless shelter is projected to open in late 2017, but there are no plans for the potential safe space in question.