OC Homelessness: Anaheim Residents’ Reaction Confirms the Shelter Model Needs to Be Revised (Part II)


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Some of the latest data on homelessness available on the website of a city’s coalition addressing homeless, the Anaheim Poverty Task Force, shows the following:

“WHO ARE THE HOMELESS?

There are many different types of data sources that attempt to create an accurate picture of Orange County’s homeless population. Unfortunately, each process uses a different homeless definition and has a different research methodology. ..The two main sources of data on the number and demographics of the homeless in Orange County are the Point-In-Time Homeless Count and Survey (PITS) and the Client Management Information System…Each of these data sources is subject to bias and limitations; however, they currently provide the most comprehensive data available…

According to the 2009 ORANGE COUNTY HOMELESS CENSUS AND SURVEY

  • Among unsheltered adults, 16.4% were female, and 83.6% were male.
  • Among sheltered unaccompanied adults, 33.5% were female and 66.5% were male.
  • When asked how long they’d been homeless since their last permanent housing situation, the largest percentage of unsheltered survey respondents reported “2 or more years” (43.6%),followed by “less than one year” (37.9%) and “1-2 years” (18.6%). The largest percentage of sheltered respondents reported “less than one year” (56.7%), followed by “2 or more years”(22.6%) and “1-2 years” (20.7%).

Among the unsheltered homeless, it was found that:

  • 63.4% were chronically homeless
  • 33.5% were severely mentally ill
  • 47.2% were chronic substance abusers
  • 19.5% were veterans
  • 1.2% were living with HIV/AIDS
  • 8.3% were victims of domestic violence.”

An outreach approach probably would not have had changed the outcome, neighbors would have opposed a shelter anyway but a significant number would have accepted it. I presented my observations to the process used in the Kraemer approach in this post.

Other than the process, the issue has become the model being proposed by the advocates: the large, single, institutionalized Multiple Services Center. It is normal to accept the recommendation of experts, especially on a highly sensitive issue. In Anaheim the main proponent of this plan is the Poverty Task Force, and their expertise and hard work is summarized in an action plan. Most of the quotes I use below are taken from its website:

“The Five Year Plan to Address Homelessness and Poverty in Anaheim is a document that we hope will one day be adopted by the City Council as the City’s official policy.  Members of the Task Force are regularly meeting with city officials to ask them to adopt the Plan, but we need your voice and your help to make this change possible!

Key recommendations addressed in the Plan: Create a multi-service center and year round shelter to connect homeless persons with emergency resources, life-skills counseling, job training, and other services”

As part of this plan, Anaheim has allocated city staff “to assist in the coordination of those services to the public through the Anaheim Religious Community Council (ARCC)”. The city hosts quarterly meeting for this organization and the next one will be a “Symposium on Homelessness Recap” and “Engaging the Faith-Based Community & Shelter Efforts”. One of the featured speakers at this meeting is the Director of the County Community Services.

The influence of this coalition was expressed on the unanimous city council support for the shelter. It is great that these organizations are supported by the city, but the same opportunity needs to be given to residents impacted by their initiatives and by the city’s resolutions.

The composition of the Task Force is interesting.  It is a very broad20150805_193828 coalition including many local politicians and which contradictory dynamics I pointed out in this post, and recently by the Orange County Weekly in this article reporting on the Embassy Suites meeting.

The shelter model and the Task Force plan “was largely modeled on the Orange County Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness”, which partly explains the connection between Spitzer and city officials on this issue. The virtues of this model have  recently been presented to the public at large by the director of the Mercy House. I understand that he feels that he has been misquoted about the legitimacy of the fears of residents, when he spoke at the June 2, 2015 BOS meeting. He seems to be the preferred option to run the shelter.

One of his competitors is the OCEA represented Social Workers, as stated in this editorial column, “integrated services …can only be efficiently and effectively provided by County staff”. As an employee also represented by this Association , I expressed my reservations to them about backing Spitzer’s proposal and their assessment of the public reaction. They acknowledge ” that Orange County requires other regional locations adjacent to public transportation where homeless residents can turn to for help.” The recognition to add other locations reflects  the different solutions presented by the Voice of Orange County (VOC), which was well summarized in this article “A New Way to Battle Homelessness Gains Traction.”  Alternative models that addresses both the homeless population needs and residents’ concerns would dramatically reduce the pressure on local officials and  candidates for public office, and mostly important, reduce the aversion against homeless.

This post ended up TLTR (too long to read…) so I broke it up in two parts. It was as long as my walk delivering flyers. It has been a long and hard process to get a conversation going on, even the simple flyer I was delivering took days to be composed in the most neutral and acceptable terms. My position has been questioned by both pro and anti-shelter groups. My friends, Chris from the piano store, and Lou a homeless himself, asked me on which side of the fence are you?

As I told to the wife of a dear neighbor, I am a bridge. She is an immigrant from Europe, and she said, you know what, I like you, we both have funny accents but we find funny meanings in English words. We laughed loudly, and I continued delivering flyers. I felt that I was canvassing for the councilmember we are meeting this week, James Vanderbilt. He deserves it anyway, he has the guts to meet with us. Hopefully, in the words of another neighbor, he will not only listen, but hear us,  before the County’s diligence period on buying the Kraemer property ends, on August 30th.

Click here for Part I


About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly. http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2013/12/caterpillars-crossing-in-a-city-at-a-crossroads/