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Emily Rasmussen and Daniel Ritz

Some 700 homeless people in Orange County could have shelter in Anaheim, Santa Ana and Huntington Beach soon, according to officials at a court hearing on Wednesday, June 13 at Federal Judge David O. Carter’s chambers in the Santa Ana Federal Courthouse.

Representatives that span across Orange County gathered for an update on the status of finding emergency shelters for its homeless, after Carter asked cities from north, central and South County a few weeks ago to propose shelter sites at the June 13 meeting. Officials from Anaheim, Santa Ana and Huntington Beach shared the number of potential shelters and beds to Carter, who was pleased with much of the progress but was still critical of other moving parts—throughout the county—going forward.

Carter asked the cities not to reveal specific locations of the proposed shelter sites to the public, yet.

As for the other cities in Orange County, Carter recessed the open hearing and met behind closed doors with each Orange County area. Dana Point City Manager Mark Denny was one of five South County cities represented.

Other South County city representatives that joined the hearing included those from Laguna Niguel, Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach. Representatives from San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano did not attend the hearing.

As for a countywide approach, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do shared a “Housing Funding Strategy,” which outlines affordable housing and levels of income in the county. The strategy proposes creating “supportive housing” through county and city funds, via state homeless funding or otherwise.

Do advised to create fewer, larger homeless shelters with a higher density of beds, opposed to more shelters with a lesser density of beds. Additionally, Do also suggested that cities that do not want to create new homeless shelters could pitch in funds toward other shelters in the county, as a sort of buy-out option.

Carter emphasized throughout the hearing that he did not want to see any one city or area of the county to bear the brunt of facilitating homeless shelters. Carter also noted that although the concentration of homelessness in bigger, central county cities is higher, there is a significant number of homeless people in South County cities.

Carter mentioned South County beaches, along with areas of San Juan Creek and Del Obispo in San Juan Capistrano, as areas that “homegrown” homeless people currently reside in—adding that he went to these areas himself—and argued that anyone who says there is not a noticeable homeless population in South County is wrong.

After meeting with Judge Carter, city managers and mayors are scheduled to meet in the coming weeks to discuss potential South County locations. Meeting Carter’s requirements would allow for continued enforcement of anti-camping ordinances, which could be suspended if adequate shelter needs are not met. When more information regarding the homeless shelters is revealed, the Dana Point Times will write a follow-up story.

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