City/county spat halts work on 600-bed Santa Ana homeless shelter
About a month ago, Orange County and Santa Ana officials stood in a federal courtroom and told U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter they’d aim to open a homeless shelter with up to 600 beds by this fall.
Now the project is on an indefinite hold, after Orange County First District Supervisor Andrew Do questioned whether the city still supports the shelter. The proposed site is an existing industrial building on South Yale Street a few blocks north of West Warner Avenue, near the southwestern corner of Santa Ana.
City leaders learned Do had halted planning for the emergency shelter April 16, when the supervisor dispatched county CEO Frank Kim to the council meeting with a letter explaining his concerns.
In a phone interview, Do said the City Council had signed an agreement last fall to partner with the county on a shelter at a location to be determined, but several new council members were since elected in November and he’s recently heard criticism from some city leaders and ambivalence from others regarding the proposal.
In the letter, Do also expressed surprise that no public outreach had been done; the original city/county agreement doesn’t specify any outreach or whose responsibility it would be.
With only three original supporters of the shelter agreement still on the dais, Do said, “The outreach will have to wait until there is some official action taken by the current council to say, ‘We support this.’”
Councilwoman Cecilia Iglesias, who won her seat in November and whose council ward includes the Yale Street property, said she won’t be signing on to any such action.
“I don’t agree that it should be in Santa Ana,” she said. “We’ve done our share.”
Iglesias questioned how many of the homeless now staying at the Courtyard, a 400-bed shelter in the city’s Civic Center that the Yale Street facility would replace, have legitimate ties (school, work, family) to Santa Ana, and how many of them genuinely want help. She also said other areas, particularly south Orange County, should take steps to house more of the region’s homeless.
Do “is doing the best that he can,” she said, but the other four supervisors “need to step it up” and encourage the creation of shelters in their districts.
The county spent $12.25 million to buy the Yale Street property, and the city had agreed to chip in some state grant funds and an ongoing $1 million a year toward shelter operations.
It’s unclear how or when the stalemate may end, but if it doesn’t, city and county leaders could be facing a new crisis in coming months. The Yale Street shelter was expected to replace the Courtyard and eliminate the need for cold-weather beds at the city’s National Guard Armory and the need for the year-round space at The Link, a temporary 200-bed shelter the city opened in November.
Do noted that because the new shelter is intended to be used for years, it could take at least 18 months to build. The Link was intended to close by late 2020, and the county’s contract with Courtyard shelter operator Midnight Mission expires this September, though it could be extended.
Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, who supported the agreement with the county, said he was stumped as to why Do hit the pause button on the Yale Street project.
“I haven’t changed my position. We have a need for the shelter,” he said, adding: “There’s no site in the city that’s not going to have some opposition.”
Pulido said he was leaving it to the council to decide if another show of support needs to be sent to county officials.
Do said as soon as he hears there’s support from the city, he’s prepared to “move ahead post haste” with community meetings and resume planning for the shelter.