Have Homeless-Hating Hardliners Hijacked Opposition to the Homeless Shelter?




Residents, property and business owners close to the proposed Kraemer site, are not directly responsible for the homelessness crisis, and although we already have a significant low number of homeless in our area, we are going to shoulder a solution that may be imposed on us. A solution that has been rejected in other places, and that still has many unaddressed questions.

Whether we like this solution or not, we may have to live with it. So rather than engaging in an opposition campaign which has a quasi homeless -phobic attitude, we should have engaged policy makers, at County and City level, and advocates to find either a compromise or assurances that our concerns are going to be addressed. A reasonable solution stated by the business owners, small countywide shelters, is not being adopted by the most active opposition represented by the anti-shelter website.

Whatever the reasons that the County’s Supervisors and city council members have had on this issue (genuine concern for the homeless, political pressure, funding expectations) and the good intentions of advocates and faith-based organizations, dismissing the NIMBY reaction did not help. It does not help either that the County is not releasing the Shelter’s Operations and Public Safety Plans before the September 30th community forum. Having these reports available would have allowed time to read them and provide appropriate and timely feedback.

I contacted both the County Commission to End Homelessness and the Anaheim Police Department to obtain  these reports. I got a response  only from the APD,  stating that the report on Public Safety was being  developed  by County officials. I did not get a response from neither  the Kraemer project website  nor the Director of the County Commission. 

Regardless of the merits of the proposed shelter and the motives of Canyonthe experts behind it, the opposition to the proposed homeless shelter has been taken over by people who seems not to have any intention of finding a reasonable solution to what shall we call it : problem/challenge?

As much as I have avoided presenting this issue based on the intentions of certain individuals, as the issue was not created by one person, at the end of the day specific people have played a role in shaping the debate and the course of actions.

I finally met Matt Cunningham. I don’t know whether his personal views on the homeless are reflected in the tone of his website, advertised in the protest signs, or he is just expressing the sentiments of others. I’d hope he does not favor the “Humane Society “approach expressed by some people associated with him : take the homeless off the streets of Orange County and move them to a facility somewhere in the inland areas.

His role in the ant-shelter campaign intrigues me not so much because he lives close by and that he may be being compensated as a PR for running the website. The shelter may be imposed as it is the prerogative of the BOS. However, our council members could and should represent the concerns of the residents, and Matt’s closeness to the two most outspoken councilmembers supporting the shelter continues to be unchallenged. The same with his close connection to the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber does not seem to be representing the Canyon business owners on this issue.

Council member Vanderbilt met with some Rio Vista residents. Matt could have facilitated a meeting with Murray and Brandman. Granted they may be very committed to this project but they could listen to the residents and explain what happened with the Karcher site, the original location for the shelter.

The operator of the anti-shelter website bears responsibility for its strong anti-homeless stance, casting a shadow on the legitimate concerns of the residents not represented by his website, and making it harder to get support from the policy makers to find alternative solutions.

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/