Homelessness: OC Approves $8 Million in Housing for Homeless, Selects Mercy House to Run Shelter

Orange County is taking action on homelessness.

Just one week after adopting Supervisor Andrew Do’s plan to transform a Santa Ana bus terminal into a transitional homeless shelter, the Orange County Board of Supervisors has approved $8 million to provide housing for people who currently living on the streets or at risk of becoming homeless.

In addition to approving $8 million for “housing-for-homeless” programs, Orange County also selected the non-profit Mercy House Living Centersto operate the county’s first, permanent year-round shelter, located at 1000 N. Kraemer Place in Anaheim.

“Yes to action, no to excuses – that’s our new mantra,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, who has made tackling homelessness his primary focus during his eighteen months on the board. “We’re delivering on our promise to do everything we can to get people off the streets.”

On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved spending $5 million in mental health funds to develop permanent supportive housing for people who are homeless, severely mentally ill, or at risk of becoming homeless. In addition to new housing units, the funding for the new “Special Needs Housing Program” will deliver wrap-around services to help get people back on their feet.

The board also took action to help individuals living with HIV that are at risk of becoming homeless by approving $3 million in rental assistance, employment services and other programs to achieve self-sufficiency. For up to two years, as many as 500 people will be eligible for rental assistance.

“Our homeless population deserves our attention and a helping hand up,” Supervisor Do said. “I’m pleased to work with my colleagues to be part of the solution.”

Orange County selects Mercy House to operate homeless shelter

In selecting Mercy House to run Orange County’s permanent year-round shelter, supervisors said that they had a partner committed to new ideas and solutions to homelessness.

“I’m pleased that Mercy House will be able to link people from the streets to permanent housing,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do.

In May, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to open the competitive bidding process for an operator for the county’s first permanent, year-round shelter and multiservice center, which was unanimously approved by the board in November. The new shelter will provide shelter to 200 people, with supportive services available to help the homeless with everything from employment to mental health care.

Orange County: Momentum on Homelessness

After years of inaction, Orange County has strong momentum to combat homelessness.

Last week, the county adopted Supervisor Andrew Do’s plan to improve the conditions at the Orange County Civic Center by opening a transitional homeless shelter at the Santa Ana Transit Terminal. Supervisor Do has set an ambitious goal to open the new shelter within 30 days.

He’s confident that the county can deliver on its promise, in part, because it has done it once before. In advance of the El Nino storms, Supervisor Andrew Do succeeded in fast-tracking the transformation of the same facility into an emergency El Nino storm center, which provided food and shelter over more than 4,000 visits during the winter.

Last fall, Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do first proposed a social care coordinator, or homeless czar to cut through bureaucratic red tape and improve existing services. That position was filled in May – with the appointment of Susan Price.

Orange County has also partnered with local lawmakers and non-profit organizations to expand assistance programs and maximize mental health spending. In April, American Family Housing announced that, thanks in part to the county’s assistance, it was receiving $1.7 million for a new veteran housing project in Midway City. Expected to open in November, Potter’s Lane will provide housing and wrap-around services to homeless veterans.

In June, the Orange County Board of Supervisors moved forward with an application for an innovative pilot program focused on “whole person care.” If selected, the county and federal matching-funds would allocate $23.5 million to provide targeted wrap-around services to at-risk groups.

A former Orange County prosecutor, Supervisor Andrew Do represents the First District communities of Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Midway City, Santa Ana and Westminster.