Orange and neighbor cities take small steps to tackle homelessness

The Orange City Council is meeting with nearby municipal and county leaders to develop comprehensive methods to counter homelessness.  

In the wake of public demands for action, council members agreed to bolster inter-city and public communications and compare notes with neighboring municipalities. The council also passed an ordinance prohibiting “aggressive acts of solicitation” in the city, and encourages business owners to report incidents to the police.

During the council’s Oct. 24 meeting, Mike Alvarez reported that the city now has a page devoted to the issue on its website.  

Mayor Tita Smith said she met with the City of Tustin to explore the potential of “pod housing.”  The pods are currently being used in Europe and provide 25 sq. ft. of living space for an individual.  “They’re too small for families,” Smith said, “and no one can commit any money to buy them yet.”  She also noted, however, that there are 35 nonprofits addressing homelessness in Orange and that “there is a lot going on quietly and humbly in the background.”

It was also reported that county plans to purchase a building on Batavia Street to house the homeless have fallen through as the property owner, Rancho Santiago Community College District, has decided not to sell it.  Another property on Anita Street is now being considered. 

The City of Anaheim has declared a public health and safety state of emergency relating to the homeless, and has taken the lead with a 15-step action plan. The plan calls for the cities to work in collaboration with the county to set a date for “community triage,” wherein the homeless will ne assessed by need and sent to a facility that will help them. 

The county has announced the closure and enforcement of public hours along the Santa Ana River Trail. Public access hours between 17th Street and Imperial Highway will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Feb. 28, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from March 1 to Oct. 31.  In addition, the west side of the channel between 17th Street and Adams Avenue, Fountain Valley will be permanently closed.

Work has been done to clean up Santiago Creek, going south from the Chapman Ave. bridge along Yorba Park to the 55. The next phase will be from Grijalva Park, going south towards the Chapman Ave. bridge, which requires coordination between Orange, the county, and OC Water District.