SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Orange County Supervisors Tuesday agreed to acquire a building in Anaheim and turn it into a year-round homeless shelter.
The unanimous vote came after nearly four hours of public comments from opponents and advocates in a packed meeting room.
“I think it’s overwhelming when I hear 4,500 people in the county right now are homeless. And I agree. A 200-bed shelter is like a drop in the bucket,” said minister Karen Stoyanoff. “But the point is: We’ve got to start somewhere.”
County supervisors agreed to purchase the industrial building at 1000 N. Kraemer Place for $4.25 million. It will replace two temporary shelters in Fullerton and Santa Ana. The shelter would house 200 beds and serve as a service center to help the homeless get back on their feet.
Some residents and business owners in the neighborhood opposed a homeless shelter in the area, complaining that it would boost crime and other problems.
Don Dormeyer owns a production studio nearby. He worries how the shelter will affect the community. “It’s good project that they have. And every body’s heart is in the right place, but unintended consequences will go on for years,” Dormeyer said. “I mean if I were homeless in Las Vegas and heard about this, I’d be here as quick as I could.”
The owner of the Piano Empire Megastore next door at 3035 E. La Mesa Street said he had planned to retire in a few years. But he said it may not be possible now because he is worried customers may stop shopping there as a result of the influx of transients.
Twice before, county supervisors seemed poised to replace the county’s seasonal, temporary homeless shelter in Fullerton only to have public opposition sink the proposal.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson said it is not possible to find a perfectly isolated place to serve the homeless. “There is no site, zero, that isn’t near people and a school. But that’s part of living in an urban community,” Nelson said. “And (the homeless) problem is going to be near us whether it’s this building or not,” he said.
The supervisor, who represents the county’s Fourth District, has been actively involved over the past few years in trying to address the county’s homeless plight. He said the Kraemer location offers the best possible solution of providing year-round help to transients.
Tuesday’s vote came after years of discussion and failed plans. Last year, the board thought it had an agreement with Santa Ana to open a shelter in an industrial area at 1217 E. Normandy Place, but Santa Ana City Council members took back their endorsement when pressured by neighbors.
In 2013, county officials figured they had located an ideal site in a shuttered furniture store in Fullerton. Again, the city council there voted it down by a 3-2 margin after neighbors expressed their opposition.
During the winter, most of the area’s chronically homeless rely on the county’s Armor Emergency Shelter Program, which has about 400 beds but has to close when it gets warmer.
Nelson said another advantage of a year-round shelter is it would provide more long-term assistance to transients to help them get a leg up toward self-support.
The 24,384-square-foot Kraemer Place warehouse and 13,824-square-foot office space was built in 1975 on 1.86 acres, according to county officials. It was home to a commercial heating, ventilating and air-conditioning contractor.
The purchase price for the building is $4.25 million, which was approved by board in June.
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