FULLERTON (CBSLA) — Some Fullerton residents might finally get what they have been pushing for as the city begins enforcing an anti-camping ordinance next week aimed at keeping homeless people off the sidewalk.
For the past two years, Father Dennis Kriz has allowed homeless to sleep in their cars in the parking lot of St. Philip Benizi Church in Fullerton. The safe parking lot he established with the Illumination Foundation has since moved to another location, creating an encampment outside of the church gates.
“I never trust these guys,” Ramiro Hernandez, a homeowner, said.
But now, frustrated neighbors say they are relieved that Fullerton police will begin enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance outside of the church next Wednesday.
“They’re having them get a ticket, force them into a shelter or go to jail,” one person said.
The city is able to enforce its ordinance now that it can show it has the required number of beds — between temporary shelters and two new shelters that will be built by March — for its homeless population.
“At least finally the folks have a legitimate alternative to either this or the armory where they get kicked out each morning at 6 o’ clock,” Kriz said.
The city of Fullerton joined forces with all North Orange County cities and voted to build two shelters in the industrial areas of Buena Park and Placentia. The buildings have been approved and are funded, with help from the Illumination Foundation.
“It doesn’t even have to be built,” Kriz said. “It simply needs to be approved. Once it’s approved, there will be movement.”
In four months, the two shelters will provide 60% of needed beds for the homeless population in North Orange County. But some homeless people said they do not want to be forcibly moved into a shelter.
“I’d rather go to a shelter than jail per se, because the food’s better,” Michael Richard, a homeless man, said. “But, other than that, the atmosphere is pretty much the same.”
Kriz said he’s worried that after the homeless encampment in front of the church is cleared, the people living in the neighborhood will think the homeless crisis has been solved.
“I think all of us know that once the 20 people here are cleared, there will be all kinds of people saying, ‘What problem? There’s no problem here anymore,'” Kriz said. “Even though there will be 380 other people in Fullerton on the streets, only they’ll be more hidden than this.”