As you know we have locked the facebook group (Irvine Residents for Responsible OC Solutions-formerly “Irvine Teny city protest”) from April 10th until April 19th.
We did this because the facebook algorithm makes it difficult to stay up to date on important info, meetings, etc. Its a revolving cycle of old posts mixed with new posts…and as you know, we are learning new things everyday in regards to this problem. Some people saw important posts, others didn’t simply due to the algorithm, which is out of our hands. We are currently working on setting up a forum on THIS website so we can have organized discussions regarding this issue.
We got some (3 people) backlash regarding us “censoring” and “violating” their 1st amendment rights to freedom of speech (wtf?) because we locked the page down for NINE days….so heres a little explanation (again)
We locked the facebook page so that for the next 9 days, we can regroup, and not argue amongst each other about the unknown. There is no need to divide during this time. We noticed (as well as other members pointed out) the group becoming somewhat toxic…so in an effort to keep the positive momentum going, we had to take this measure.
THAT BEING SAID…
The gathering that was yesterday (April 10th) was so unorganized, chaotic, and honestly nothing that I expected. We were told to be there at 6 for public speaking, and we were, some of us earlier…but the meeting got cut short due to the city not having much on the agenda.
People were understandably mad, I think in part because the meeting ended early which didn’t allow late comers to speak, and also because of the unorganization.
What I expected was a gathering to show support for our city officials who would then be more inspired to pressure the city…but what turned out, was a semi angry sounding mob of protesters who seemed angry at our city officials.
While I agree, the proposal that Todd Spitzer and Mayor Wagner announced for a shelter in Irvine was premature and definitely not something anyone expected…I also think a lot of residents were already on edge, and that sent a lot of us over.
Our Mayor has basically been backed into a corner by Judge Carter and the residents of Irvine (as well as the cities in south OC who have now come under his wing for solutions).
Lets be real, no city wants this problem in their city. Santa Ana, Anaheim, Fullerton, should’ve never had to deal with it, their children never should have been exposed to it, when they spoke, their city should’ve listened, their city should’ve fought for their residents. The county failed them, and now the county is faced with a lawsuit and a crazy timeline to find a solution to a problem that the COUNTY let grow more than 8% in less than 2 years…so their solution? “Temporary” tent camps in 3 cities….we obviously saw how that worked out. The county seems to really have no clue as to what they should to do satisfy the judge, and their bullshit ideas clearly aren’t going over well with the residents.
While its sad to see our neighbors a few miles north ignorantly state “our kids suffered, now its your kids turn”…”what makes your kids better?” etc….the fact of the matter is this, no ones kids are better than the next…and NO, its not our kids turn to suffer. YOUR kids should’ve never suffered, and its not Irvine’s fault. It’s your cities fault for not fighting and standing up for the community. OC should’ve never gotten to the point where 3 cities had to rise up (in less than a week) to say “HELL NO, NOT OUR CITY!”
April 10th, our Mayor was basically declared the Mayor of all south OC by Judge Carter. The judge directed him to find a solution for the southern part of OC and to work collectively with those cities mayors to find that solution. Our impression of that meeting was that Judge Carter wants to break up the homeless hub we currently have, into 3 different hubs (north, south, and central OC) so one area is not absorbing all of the homeless.
Clearly both north and central OC already have their hubs of resources, so now its on south OC to find something.
SO while we await the Mayors meeting on April 19th, all the admins and core organizers of this movement decided it was a good idea to lock the facebook page down. We will reopen the page on the 19th, however THIS WEBSITE will have all the UP TO DATE information, meetings, etc.
California’s homeless population has grown to more than 134,000 people, and key state government spending is taking a while to reach the streets.
In summer 2016 the state approved its largest homeless program, a $2-billion loan to help finance new housing, but the money is tied up in court. That same year, lawmakers allocated $35 million for rental assistance and emergency shelters, but staff shortages at the housing department delayed spending the money for 18 months. Last year’s package of housing legislation included more than $100 million for programs to help the homeless, but the state won’t begin spending those dollars until fall at the earliest. The spending difficulties come as the state’s homeless population has risen 16% over the past two years.
Some of the state’s sluggishness, advocates say, springs from a history of limited investment. But that could be changing. Legislators are considering proposals that could pump an additional $1.5 billion into homelessness prevention next year, efforts that could lead to thousands of new beds for those needing shelter — and stronger scrutiny of state spending.
“We are now seeing what has taken decades of neglect to fester,” said Sharon Rapport, associate director for California policy at the Corporation for Supportive Housing in Los Angeles. “When you don’t have programs for a long time and then you try to create something new, it does take a culture shift.”
Generally, funding to help the homeless comes from the federal government and goes directly to local agencies that coordinate homeless financing and services across the state. That federal effort has provided around $100 million annually over the past four years to an agency that covers much of Los Angeles County. At the state level, major programs that included homeless housing subsidies, such as a 2006 bond measure and a $1-billion annual property tax set aside for affordable housing, have run out of money or were eliminated over the past seven years.
Next year, the state expects to spend $700 million on homelessness, though more than a third of that amount is tied up in litigation. The state money is spread across six departments, and uncertainty over what’s being spent led to frustration at a recent legislative committee hearing.
California’s government wants to spend $700 million on homelessness next year
Proposed homelessness spending is spread across half a dozen departments that all have their own programs.
|State of California department||Proposed spending|
|Department of Housing and Community Development||$560 million*|
|Department of Social Services||$85 million|
|California Housing Finance Agency||$30 million|
|Office of Emergency Services||$19 million|
|Department of Public Health||$5 million|
|Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation||$3 million|
* $262 million comes from a bond measure that is currently being litigated
Source: California Department of Finance
Officials with the California Department of Finance and the Department of Housing and Community Development tried last month to explain to legislators on the Assembly Committee on Budget how the state was spending its money. But the conversation turned to programs that weren’t listed on the budget that state officials provided the committee, and lawmakers were upset that they didn’t have a comprehensive accounting of the spending.
Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), chairman of the budget committee, has proposed spending $1.5 billion of the state’s expected $6.1-billion tax revenue windfall next year on matching grants to city and county homelessness programs. Separate legislation from state Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) would spend $2 billion of that revenue on low-income housing programs, with half of that amount reserved for homelessness efforts.
As lawmakers weigh new investments, they need to know that the money they’ve already approved is being spent efficiently, Ting said.
“We’re going to be watching this issue much more closely than we did in the past,” he said.
Ben Metcalf, director of California’s housing department, defended the state’s spending on the homeless. Some of the confusion at the recent budget committee hearing came from his department’s attempt to redirect dollars from an outdated emergency shelter program to one that provides permanent homeless housing, he said.
Under Gov. Jerry Brown, the housing department alone has spent nearly $750 million fighting homelessness, Metcalf said, and any time the Legislature creates a new program it takes time to figure out the most efficient way to spend the money.
Lawmakers appropriated funding for one rental assistance effort in 2016 but didn’t approve money for housing department operations to run that program until a year later. Last year’s package of new housing laws added a $75 fee to mortgage refinances and other real estate transactions, with half of the money from the first year going to homeless programs. The state is waiting until the fall for that money to add up before it starts spending, Metcalf said.
“You can’t just snap your fingers and make anything happen overnight,” he said. “That’s just the reality.”
The administration has not taken a position on Ting’s or Beall’s homeless spending proposals, Metcalf said. Brown has said he wants to put money from the tax windfall into reserves in case of an economic downturn or repeat of last year’s wildfires and other natural disasters.
State money for homelessness prevention also comes from other agencies. The Department of Social Services, which administers the state’s welfare assistance program, CalWorks, has $85 million set aside to help families and individuals at risk of becoming homeless with temporary housing, rental assistance and counseling services. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the same department responsible for coordinating the state’s response to mudslides and other natural disasters, also receives $19 million to help prevent homelessness among domestic violence and other crime victims, as well as homeless youths.
Last fall, state departments with homelessness programs formed a formal committee to ensure that their efforts don’t overlap.
Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination: Home, which handles homeless prevention services in Santa Clara County, said she became one of the committee’s members because she’s been encouraged by the state’s increased attention to the issue.
“There’s momentum now, and that’s really important,” Loving said. “That’s a response to a lack of things happening for a long time.”
It’s always the overriding question whenever there is a push to get homeless people off the streets or out of other public places: Where will they go?
When Orange County decided to dismantle the tent encampments at the Santa Ana River Trail, that question was asked by the homeless people, advocates, and the residents and merchants in the neighborhoods of Anaheim and Orange closest to the bike trail.
It remains unanswered in the longer term.
The fate of a homeless population estimated to be as high as 1,000 people remains central to a civil rights lawsuit filed in late January that eventually led the county to offer 30-day motel stays to about 700 people, along with assessments of their needs.
It now has engaged the entire county in considering next steps on emergency shelters, transitional and permanent housing, and how to deal with transients who disrupt communities.
Costs and numbers
The motel program involved 51 motels, at an average cost of $95 per night for 582 rooms, said Jennifer Nentwig, a spokeswoman for the county. That would put the cost for the 30-day program, not including some extended stays, at about $1.6 million.
The county spent another $1.6 million on a six-month contract at an Anaheim motel used for longer-term mental health placements.
The last of the motel stays ended March 28. Earlier this week, Orange County Executive Officer Frank Kim issued a memorandum to the Board of Supervisors outlining what happened to the riverbed people.
According to Kim, about half accepted services and referrals to shelters; 36 percent declined any offer of shelter or service; 15 percent left the motels before they could be assessed.
Here’s a look at some of the numbers.
Motel placements: 697
- 589 assessed by county healthcare and social workers
- 70 evicted before they could be assessed
- 31 involved some unknown disposition
- 7 left on their own before an assessment
Post-motel placements: 338 in shelters or other services
- 149 enrolled in residential mental health treatment (accompanied by 22 partners or caregivers)
- 57 entered Bridges at Kraemer Place shelter in Anaheim
- 29 in interim housing while looking for subsidized or self-paid rental
- 27 placed in programs of nonprofit service providers
- 23 in substance abuse residential treatment
- 16 entered the Courtyard Transitional Center in Santa Ana
- 5 at the women-only WISEPlace transtional housing in Santa Ana
- 5 in recuperative medical care
- 3 incarcerated
- 1 crisis residential treatment (mental health)
- 1 hospitalized
Assessed and declined help or not completed: 251
- 111 declined all services
- 71 did not show up or left on their own
- 39 staying with family or friends
- 14 undecided
- 8 no placement identified
- 7 evicted
- 1 died
In a public discussion with two members of the Board of Supervisors on Monday, Kim remarked on the motel program by saying that most motel owners involved likely wouldn’t do business with the county in the future because rooms had been damaged, including furniture and carpet destroyed and items missing.
Kim said he expects claims for monetary damages will be filed against the county by motel owners in the coming months.
From another perspective, some homeless people and their advocates have complained that they were treated rudely, that amenities were removed from their rooms beforehand, and that some of the motels were rundown.
It’s unknown how many left the riverbed or the motels and are now camping out in public spaces or hidden areas, or sleeping in vehicles. But the bike trail area where they once stayed is now off limits.
Read the memorandum from Kim in full.
SCNG staff writer Jordan Graham contributed to this report.
Orange County supervisors appear to have at least $230 million in unspent money they can use, in collaboration with other officials and community groups, to help address homelessness, a Voice of OC examination of county government finances has found.
Officials may prefer not to devote all of it to homelessness, given the county’s other responsibilities.
But even half of the money – roughly $115 million – would be enough, when combined with other sources, to build permanent supportive housing for more than 1,000 disabled, homeless people, including those with serious mental illnesses, based on what county officials previously have said it cost.
Orange County has an estimated 1,500 chronically homeless people, defined as people with a disabling condition who have either been constantly homeless for at least a year, or have been homeless on the streets or emergency shelter during at least four “sustained” periods in the past three years.
The funds identified by Voice of OC are separate from the $700 million brought up in federal court last month by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter. County officials say the annual $700 million – which has grown to roughly $800 million this year – already is being fully spent on services each year, mostly for low-income people who are not homeless.
“All of that funding is spent,” said Susan Price, the county’s homeless services director who created the 2016 chart of $700 million that led to the questions, in an interview last week.
A more recent chart, which covers the current and prior fiscal year, breaks down the annual spending into 25 categories, like housing vouchers, shelters, and mental health services. It doesn’t list which contractors received the money.
Voice of OC conducted a detailed review to see how much other county-controlled money is available, examining county financial reports and data, and interviewing officials.
The review found at least $230 million in apparent leftover funds at the end of the last fiscal year that can be spent on homeless services and housing in programs that have been successful in Utahand the greater Orlando area.
Here’s a breakdown of the money, as of the end of the last fiscal year (June 30, 2017):
- $186 million in unspent Mental Health Services Act money, separate from reserves, which can be used for housing and services for the estimated 10 to 20 percent of homeless people with serious mental illnesses. This amount is projected to decrease to $160 million at the end of this fiscal year.
- $73 million to $136 million in apparent “unassigned” or non-obligated general fund dollars, which do not appear to be part of county reserves. It’s unclear what this amount is projected to be at the end of this fiscal year.
On Wednesday evening, county officials suggested the unassigned general fund total was different, but did not say how much it was.
County officials say permanent supportive housing previously has cost the county $100,000 to $110,000 per unit. At that rate, the $115 million could support at least 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing.
The most recent census of homeless people in Orange County, in January 2017, found 3,832 people on the streets or in emergency shelters. Based on an estimate by UC Irvine researchers that 39 percent of this population is chronically homeless, that leads to an estimated 1,495 chronically homeless people in Orange County, the population for which the researchers found the most significant cost savings when they’re provided permanent supportive housing.
Local officials and affordable housing advocates say each $1 million in funding can build about $3 million or more of housing, when the initial money is combined with state grants, federal tax credits, and a campaign to raise private-sector donations. Using land already owned by cities or the county also creates significant cost savings.
The county’s general fund money is unrestricted, and has already been used for homeless programs and services. The mental health money can be used for services and housing as well, but only for people with severe mental illnesses, which are estimated to be 10 to 15 percent of the overall homeless population in Orange County. Many mentally ill homeless people have been on the streets for years, if not decades.
County supervisors have already shown the state mental health money can be used for housing. Led by Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, the supervisors have designated $20 million of this funding toward permanent supportive housing for homeless people within the last year.
The supervisors recognize that mental health “money is left on the table,” Price said, adding that’s the case in counties across California.
“Hopefully we can spend more of that to meet the needs” in mental health and homelessness, she added.
Chipping in local funding for housing significantly boosts the strength of applications for state grants for homeless housing that are expected to open up this year, according to officials and advocates.
“We need to be in the position to compete for that [state grant] money,” said Cesar Covarrubias, an affordable housing expert and advocate.
“All these state programs are really modeled after how much leverage you can get from your local money. So you have to put some money into it,” said Covarrubias, who serves as executive director of the Kennedy Commission, a nonprofit advocacy group for low-income housing, and on the board of the nonprofit Jamboree Housing Corp., which develops affordable housing.
Covarrubias said he and others believe “the county really needs to put forth general fund money, [Mental Health Services Act] money, and even think about a local housing bond” at the county level, and put them all together to “leverage the state resources that are available.”
The county has an additional $62 million in general fund dollars set aside for “contingencies,” which is defined as unforeseen needs such as “major emergencies.” This is separate from the $588 million in general fund dollars set aside for future construction projects, maintenance, and other reserve purposes.
The county’s guiding document for reserves, its strategic financial plan, says the contingencies money is for “unanticipated and severe economic downturns, major emergencies, or catastrophes that cannot be covered with existing appropriations.”
County spokeswoman Jen Nentwig said the contingencies reserve “is only for catastrophic events such as a fire, flood, and earthquake, not for day-to-day operations.”
In an interview, the county government’s chief executive officer, Frank Kim, noted the county is putting ongoing general fund dollars to use, spending about $6 million a year in for two shelters, and using an estimated $20 million in general fund money for buying a building for a mental health crisis center on Anita Place in Orange.
Kim was was cautious about using a significant amount of the general fund balance for homelessness efforts. He said the amount of money designated for general fund reserves doesn’t meet the industry-standard recommendation for reserve levels, which is equivalent to two months of operating revenues or expenses.
“Our reserves are not at a prudent level, as set by the [Government Finance Officers Association]. And it’s important for us to get there, because I suspect that in the next five years we can anticipate” another economic recession, said Kim, who oversaw county finances for years before he was appointed CEO. He said county officials should prepare for that so they don’t have to underfund services.
The $73 million-plus million in unassigned general fund money identified by Voice of OC appears to be separate from the reserves. That’s according to a comparison of the total general fund balance ($750.9 million) in the county’s annual audited financial statement, known as a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), and the amount the county says was in reserves ($614.6 million) on the same day.
On Wednesday afternoon, county officials cautioned against comparing these two numbers.
“Budget and CAFR numbers are not comparable. The reserves are not categorized in the same manner, so cannot be easily compared,” said Nentwig, the county spokeswoman, in an emailed response to questions.
Asked what the actual un-obligated or unassigned general fund amount is, Nentwig said she was looking into it. An answer wasn’t available by Wednesday night.
Additional county funding will be freed up on an ongoing basis starting in July 2019. Beginning that fiscal year, the county will no longer have to reimburse the state government for what’s known as the “VLFAA” payments, short for “Vehicle License Fee Adjustment Amount.” Those payments, which come out of general fund money, are $50 million this fiscal year and $55 million next fiscal year, the final year.
As for the unspent mental health money, people close to the county say all of it could be spent on housing and services for homeless people with serious mental illnesses, if a majority of county supervisors authorize it.
Price, the county official who oversees homeless services, said Friday she didn’t know how much of the unspent mental health funds could be used for homeless housing and services. A county spokeswoman said Friday she would get back with an answer, which wasn’t available as of Wednesday night.
With so much mental health money in the bank, millions of dollars in income is generated from the county investing it in financial markets. County officials say that income is restricted to the same uses as the money that’s generating it.
Last fiscal year, the roughly $250 million in unspent mental health money generated $2.4 million in interest income, according to county data. And over the last decade, the county has generated $13.4 million in interest from the large mental health fund balance.
County officials say any money generated from funds – like the mental health fund – is assigned back to the mental health fund and is restricted to that fund’s purposes.
Meanwhile, collaboration between county and city officials has been growing in recent weeks, according to court proceedings and officials close to the situation.
Kim said the county is supportive of a cities-level plan to build 2,700 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless people across the entire county over the next three years.
“We are [on board],” Kim said. “We think that’s an ambitious goal and we applaud them for setting a target that is as difficult as it sounds. It’s not going to be easy. But they’ve shown a lot of courage, and they ought to be encouraged. It’s awesome.”
Kim said county officials are working with the cities on a “business plan,” so the county is prepared with the “strongest application” for potential state grants later this year. In addition to cities and the county working together, nonprofits and businesses also are working together on the effort, he said.
County officials recognize they need a “cohesive, collaborative plan for how to get that [housing goal] done, so that what we’re all working on together.”
County officials have not published a comprehensive accounting of potential county funds or properties that could be used to address homelessness. That analysis currently is being conducted, Kim said.
During the court hearing last month, Carter repeatedly showed video of Supervisor Todd Spitzersaying “the county has hundreds of millions of dollars to spend to assist the homeless and it has not spent those monies,” which Spitzer describes in the video as “shameful.”
During the hearing, the judge brought up and questioned county officials about unspent money. Carter then got county officials and attorneys for homeless people – who were suing the county – to work together on relocating over 730 people from a massive encampment along Santa Ana River Trail, which Carter insisted be done “humanely.”
The homeless people were moved into motels for at least 30 days while county health officials assess each person and where they should go next. Carter said he would continue to follow the situation closely, calling the riverbed relocation “a baby step” and suggesting the federal court serve as an “umbrella” to get local officials to work together on addressing homelessness.
On Wednesday, the judge was spotted visiting what is likely the largest remaining homeless camp in Orange County: the Plaza of the Flags encampment at the Santa Ana Civic Center.
Price said the broad engagement that happened at the riverbed shows what leaders across the county, including cities and the private sector, should be working toward.
“There’s just a lot of momentum in the county right now,” Price said.
Carter also expressed interest in county properties that could be used for homeless services, shelter, or housing. County Supervisor Andrew Do mentioned a few vacant pieces of land the county could use for temporary shelter in Anaheim, Orange, and Santa Ana.
One of the main plots of land homeless advocates point to is 100 acres the county owns in Irvine at the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.
Last year, Supervisor Shawn Nelson proposed using that land for temporary homeless housing, noting the land already is zoned by the city to allow homeless shelters, and is neighbored by a public bus storage area and the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Irvine officials pushed back, and the proposal was shelved, with Nelson and his Board of Supervisors colleagues voting to instead build a large commercial development that includes a hotel, office space, and market-rate housing. Irvine is suing to challenge that development.
As for temporary shelter solutions, county officials offered in court last month to place short-term shelter, such as tents, on empty county-owned land along the Santa Ana River and next to the county Registrar of Voters office in Santa Ana.
In response to a request from Voice of OC, county officials also provided an inventory of all county-owned properties, including their location and size, in an Excel spreadsheet.
Kim, the county CEO, emphasized the county stands ready to work with cities and other community leaders on solutions.
“Judge Carter’s giving us an opportunity to address this population in a way that’s productive. And it’s an incredible opportunity for all of us to step forward and put resources on the table.”
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Urgent!!!! South OC cities anti-camping ordinance are at stake per Judge Carter if no compromised solution is proposed on a permanent basis. Irvine mayor Wagner may look within city if he cannot locate suitable place elsewhere during the 4/19 south county mayors meeting. Timing is NOT on our side. Volunteers in our community have done their research and found a perfect location: Los Pinos in Orange County. We would like to build the beautiful village like the successful proven case in Austin to help our homeless people here
Of course we cannot force people to seek help, but here Our homeless people will obtain medical treatment in Los Pinos, get job training there, and will have the opportunities to reintegrate back into society. We need urgent help of proposing this win-win solution for all to our mayor. We want to show our mayor this ideal plan has strong community support so he, and the rest of OC can put pressure on our county to force the state to look into this solution to help end this humanitarian crisis.
Please come and join us to show your support on Tuesday at 6pm at Irvine City Hall. This issue is not on their agenda, and we are simply going to show our support and speak during public comment, so they know we stand in solidarity with them in pushing the county and state for this solution.
This event is organized by the public.