Give a hoot about the ever-growing homeless issue in Orange County? If so, make sure to check out the Orange County Homeless Townhall tomorrow, where Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do will discuss the county's steps to control its homeless crisis (and no doubt try to burnish his reelection campaign in the face of a fierce challenge by SanTana councilwoman Michele Martinez). The cities most heavily affected by the homeless crisis are Anaheim and SanTana, which fall in Do's First District jurisdiction.
According to the most recent countywide survey from January 2015, OC has 4,500 homeless people living on the streets. A simple walk through the Santa Ana riverbed, Civic Center, or any well-lit commercial parking lot at night in Anaheim or Santa Ana bring this stat to life on a daily basis.
Last Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California released a report titled "Nowhere To Live: The Homeless Crisis in Orange County & How To End It," In the 42-page report, the ACLU recommends that Orange County actually start funding its own and now widely considered failed 10-Year Plan that was adopted in 2007.
The report criticizes OC for relying on "stagnant" federal and state funding to solve its homeless problem without willing to reach into its own pockets. A genuine effort to allocate $55 million in funds to the 10-Year Plan—an amount that represents less than 8 percent of the county’s discretionary budget—may be enough to end homelessness in Orange County, according to the report. "Nowhere To Live" also advocates against the criminalization of the homeless in Orange County.
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On Tuesday, Eve Garrow a policy analyst, advocate for ACLU SoCal and author the "Nowhere to Live" report, Ana Mae Gonzales, aka "Mama Brizy", an advocate for the OC homeless community, and representatives from Project Homelessness, the Anaheim Poverty Task Force, the Civic Center Roundtable and Legal Aid Orange County provided OC's board of supervisors with physical copies of the ACLU's report during their monthly meeting. Supervisors stayed awkwardly mum during the speakers’ remarks in the public comment forum and during the supervisors’ commentary period at the end of the meeting.
In the past year, Orange County has made efforts to help the end the cycle of poverty by appointing new homeless czar Susan Price, supporting a housing assistance for homeless veterans, opening an emergency shelter in Santa Ana, improving a patient access to mental health programs and breaking ground on the county’s first year-round shelter.
While these recent efforts may seem well-intended, it may just act as a temporary band-aid to the serious homeless crisis in OC. In the Facebook discussion for the Homeless Townhall tomorrow, a Facebook commenter by the name of Joy Torres wrote in bold and large lettering, "We need rent control" which garnered several likes by fellow OC Facebookers.
Orange County Homeless Townhall. Saturday, Oct 15th. 10a.m.-12p.m. Orange County Hall of Administration Board Hearing Room 33 W. Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana. Check out the Facebook event page.