Orange County got one step closer to finally building its first sizable, year-round emergency homeless shelter Tuesday when Anaheim and Fullerton each committed $500,000 toward the project.
“We can either continue to turn a blind eye and pretend that we don’t see them sitting on corners, taking shelter in the shade of parks, living in cars … or we can move forward and work with the county to build a shelter,” Anaheim City Council Member Kris Murray said Tuesday.
The money will cover nearly a quarter of the $4.2 million price tag to buy warehouse in Anaheim to be converted to a shelter. The county also plans to offer medical care, job training, mental health counseling and other social services.
For years, Orange County has been searching for a building to replace the region’s two large winter-only shelters. Opposition from residents in Fullerton and Santa Ana repeatedly stalled efforts.
The county has been trying to find a location that avoids similar ‘not-in-my-backyard’ complaints ever since.
In March, Orange County staff and community members had identified a warehouse at 1000 N. Kraemer Place in Anaheim that could serve as a homeless shelter. It's in a light industrial area of Anaheim with no schools or homes nearby.
But the county was short a million dollars for the purchase. It asked the cities of Anaheim and Fullerton to pitch in.
Some business owners have told the Anaheim city council they worried homeless people milling about the area would deter customers from going to a brewery and playhouse theater down the block from the warehouse.
“Change is difficult,” Anaheim Council Member Lucille Kring said. “And maybe this isn’t the only facility that we will build ... but for the time being, the one place on Kraemer is where we are looking.”
The county wants to open the shelter by next spring, said Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz.
Fullerton Council Member Bruce Whitaker voted against funding the purchase. He said Fullerton was paying more than it would be using.
“Odds are that this shelter would be populated with more Anaheim homeless than Fullerton homeless,” he said.
Whittaker wasn’t alone in his concern that other cities are not doing their fair share.
Anaheim Council Member James Vanderbilt asked the city manager to talk to the cities of Brea, Yorba Linda, Placentia and other nearby communities about helping pay for the facility if the deal goes through.