OC Supervisors to convert Santa Ana bus terminal into homeless shelter

- Orange County supervisors Wednesday unanimously approved the conversion of an old Santa Ana bus terminal into a year-round shelter for the area's homeless.

At a special board meeting, the supervisors approved the plan to turn the Santa Ana Transit Terminal at 400 W. Santa Ana Blvd. into a shelter.

Supervisor Andrew Do, who spearheaded the move, said he will push to have it open in a month.

The supervisors quickly transformed the terminal into an emergency shelter on rainy days in January.

The move came hours before the Santa Ana City Council is expected to vote on a resolution "declaring a public health and safety crisis" and calling on the county to use the terminal as a homeless shelter. City Council
members Vicente Sarmiento, Roman Reyna and Michele Martinez, who is challenging Do for supervisor of the First District in November, proposed the resolution.

The council members issued a statement last Thursday criticizing the progress county officials have made on a 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Do told City News Service he first announced his proposal to use the terminal as a year-round transitional homeless shelter during an interview on KFI-AM's "John and Ken Show" last Wednesday.

"I made this proposal the day before the Santa Ana City Council issued its memo, and so the whole idea that somehow the Santa Ana City Council had to urge the county to take action is disingenuous," Do said. "But the point is now they're supportive of my proposal, so I'm not here to try to get into a verbal spat with the city council."

Two years ago, Santa Ana City Council members had an agreement with the county to open a shelter in an industrial area at 1217 E. Normandy Place, but pressure from neighbors prompted city officials to pull back on their endorsement of that plan.

Last November, the supervisors approved a plan to open a year-round, full-time homeless shelter at 1000 N. Kraemer Place, which is next to a strip club and a Riverside (91) Freeway onramp.

The transient population in the civic center area around the Santa Ana City Hall and the Central Justice Center Superior Court building has worsened. That's led to the latest round of finger pointing.

"As the primary entity charged with addressing homelessness, the county of Orange has received more than $150 million in Homeless Assistance Funding since 1996," the council members said in the Thursday statement. "On an annual basis, the county receives approximately $23.2 million in federal and state funding specifically to reduce homelessness and in 2008 the county adopted its `Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness.' Yet, despite having a formal plan in place, the homeless population has only significantly increased since the adoption of its Ten-Year Plan, eight years ago."

City officials said they have spent nearly $5 million annually on addressing homelessness.

The three council members also want the city manager to "convene a meeting of all 344 Orange County cities to discuss homelessness and develop a plan to implement a number of public health and safety measures in the civic center area."

Those measures would include improved lighting, a boost in police and security guards, relocating a state-authorized needle-exchange program that is next to City Hall, finding a better place for charities to tend to the
transients, stepping up enforcement of code violations and crimes and providing parking for employees closer to their offices. Do noted that all cities except Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana have collaborated with the county on running a housing authority. "So they take it on themselves to handle their housing needs alone,"
Do said. "So the idea they need to look to the county to solve their housing problem is ludicrous. They cannot all be that stupid. All you can assume is they've been very disingenuous, making statements they know are not
justifiable."

Do said he would like to transform the bus terminal into a facility that provides long-term services to the homeless as opposed to just an emergency shelter during bad weather.

Do moved recently to have port-a-potties placed in the civic center area, addressing one of the top complaints from the area's transients who do not have access at times to a bathroom for hours. The port-a-potties will
remain in place until the new bus terminal shelter opens, Do said.

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