Amid talks of establishing a new homeless shelter near Cal State Fullerton, a concern over the homeless population affecting the city’s crime rates has become the subject of contention for Fullerton residents.
Citizens voiced their concerns at a recent Fullerton City Council meeting that a 24-hour homeless shelter could lead to an influx of homeless people in the area which might lead to higher crime rates in the area.
The year-round shelter will focus on providing 200 beds and assistance for homeless people with small children, since the new location would provide better accommodations for homeless families.
Teri Niebuhr, director of the Homeless Intervention Shelter House (HIS House) in Placentia, said she does not believe the homeless population is directly linked to crime rates in any area and that a bigger problem is the amount of untreated mentally ill homeless.
Niebuhr said many homeless people can receive treatment and education that would help them function better in society and possibly get them off the streets for good through help from a homeless shelter.
According to LAPDOnline.org, statistics show the two mile area around HIS House has had 40 crimes reported from Feb. 15 of last year to the present date.
The number of crimes is extremely low compared to the area surrounding the Union Rescue Mission homeless shelter at 545 South San Pedro St. in Los Angeles.
CrimeMapping.com, a site designed to show recent crime activities in the U.S., has estimated there have been 500 crimes reported within a half mile of the Union Rescue Mission within the past year.
The Rev. Andrew Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, said crimes committed by the homeless are high in the area surrounding his homeless shelter.
Bales also mentioned there are just as many crimes being committed against the homeless.
According to Bales, the crimes surrounding Union Rescue Mission are primarily comprised of petty crimes like jaywalking, stolen items from vehicles and drug use, and major crimes like assault and murder.
“Our Skid Row in LA is especially crime-filled with the density of predators and struggling, desperate people experiencing homelessness,” Bales said.
Bales said he has hope his homeless shelter can make a change in the community since Union Rescue Mission provides the means for homeless people to become a functioning members of society as opposed to simply offering meals and a bed for an evening.
“We absolutely enact positive change, teach responsibility and focus on life transformation through our one year long intense recovery programs,” Bales said. “We’ve decided to launch an even stronger jobs program, as we believe the best way to end homelessness is a transformation for life, a job, and then a home.”
Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn said since Anaheim does not have a homeless shelter; the city does not keep any data that suggests a correlation between homeless shelters and crime.
“From experience as well as some empirical data, there tends to be additional calls for service in areas where homeless congregate,” he said.
Even though he could not comment on his personal approval or disapproval of a new homeless shelter in the Fullerton area, Dunn did say he approves of any type of help that could be given to the homeless population.
“Any kind of service we can bring to the homeless population of Orange County or Anaheim is going to positively impact quality of life,” Dunn said. “Not just for the people who utilize areas in which homeless people choose to congregate, but it also would positively impact the quality of life for the homeless individuals themselves.”
One of the major arguments voiced by residents against the proposed location is its close proximity to CSUF, Troy High School and Ladera Vista Junior High School.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker has formally voiced his opposition to the proposed homeless shelter at a town hall meeting Tuesday.
He cited a lack of communication from the Orange County Board of Supervisors during its consideration of the Fullerton site as the reason for his opposition.
The mayor said he is not opposed to the need for a homeless shelter in Fullerton, but has issues with how the current site was chosen.