OC officials propose safety plan for homeless shelter

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Orange County officials Wednesday night presented a plan designed to quell safety concerns over a proposed homeless shelter in Anaheim. 

Cutting down on crime and nuisances in the city, they said, is actually the shelter's primary goal. 

“This is designed to be a good neighbor, a resource for law enforcement, a resource to improve the quality of life,” Karen Roper, Director of Orange County Community Services, told the crowd gathered at the Eastside Christian Church. 

Police would increase patrols around the site, located at 1000 N. Kraemer Place in a mostly industrial part of North Anaheim across the Santa Ana River Trail from the Riverdale neighborhood. Additionally, the shelter would install surveillance cameras and no walk-ins would be accepted. Homeless using the shelter would have to go through a screening process.

Michael Chew, a member of the Orange Riverdale Homeowners Alliance, wasn't swayed by the plan. He lives near the proposed site, near the river trail where homeless people frequently camp.
“We got guys that are doing drugs there. I mean, I can’t even get my kids to ride their bikes on the river trail anymore," he said.

Opponents said they worried the shelter would bring down property values in the area. But Anaheim resident Maria Bessem said that claim was ridiculous. 

“As far as property values, there’s a full nude bar within one block of this facility," she said.

County supervisors are expected to vote on whether to go through with locating the shelter at the site late this year. The county is in the process of purchasing the property for $4.3 million. 

Orange County lacks shelter space for its homeless population, which has grown five percent in the past two years. Finding a site for a new year-round shelter has been tough.

Angry neighbors from Fullerton and Santa Ana shutdown efforts in the past two years to put a new shelter in those cities and a short-lived attempt to locate one at a different site in Anaheim also fell through.

The proposed shelter would have up to 200 beds and accommodate stays of 30 days or less. It would serve all types of homeless people -- chronically and transitional individuals including single men and women and families.

Registered sex offenders or people with open warrants would be turned away from the facility, she added. 

Roper said buses would shuttle pre-screened homeless residents from designated pick-up and drop-off locations, which haven’t been determined, yet.

The details:

  • At least five unarmed security guards would be assigned to the inside of the facility; guards would also patrol pick-up and drop-off locations.
  • Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said additional officers would be added to the police department’s homeless outreach, community policing and the city’s code enforcement teams.
  • Five to 10 percent of the beds would be reserved for law enforcement needing to shelter people; Anaheim police would get priority since it would be the host city for the shelter. 
  • OC officials promised no loitering laws would be enforced around the facility and pick-up and drop-off locations.
  • The shelter operator would be required to monitor activity within a one-mile radius of the facility.
  • A 27-7 hot line and email would be established for the public to report problems and issues with the facility.
  • Various community advisory boards would influence how the shelter would be run.
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