Orange County opens its first year-round shelter and service center for homeless people on Friday as part of the county’s efforts to come to grips with its homeless crisis.
The Bridges at Kraemer Place will serve up to 100 homeless men and women in northern Orange County, providing beds, meals, showers and a kennel for pets. Services at the shelter will focus squarely on getting people into permanent housing, said Larry Haynes, executive director of Mercy House, which is running the shelter.
“From day one, it is all about, 'We’re getting you off the streets and moving you into housing,'” he said.
The center represents a victory for elected officials, who have been hounded by community members and homeless advocates to do more to help the estimated 15,000 people in Orange County who are homeless at some point during the year.
At the shelter inauguration ceremony on Thursday, County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said the county should be proud, but he acknowledged that much more is needed.
“Certainly this facility alone isn’t enough,” he said. "All the other [elected officials] in this county have to have the political stamina and the will to do this in other places in this county. It will never happen with just one facility.”
He said the new shelter must be a model and that many would be watching to gauge its success.
"The homeless have got to want to come here. And the community has to embrace it. It cannot fail, it cannot fail,” he said.
The shelter will be expanded to 200 beds, plus an onsite kitchen and health clinic, over the next year.