The Fullerton City Council met Tuesday night in its first public discussion regarding a homeless shelter in Fullerton proposed by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Board chairman Shawn Nelson revealed the proposition for a year-round 200-bed homeless shelter to be implemented a mile south of Cal State Fullerton.
Nelson said the proposed site is by no means final but he is optimistic about its prospects.
The site would replace the current shelter serving Fullerton’s homeless population, the 200-bed seasonal Fullerton Armory Shelter, run by the National Guard, at 400 South Brookhurst.
The armory shelter is open just five months out of the year, and its hours of operation force homeless to line up to get in.
The proposed site is much bigger than the armory shelter, but it will serve the same amount of homeless.
Nelson said that the 24/7, year-round operation of the new shelter will alleviate some of those issues.
“The National Guard Armory has been in Fullerton now for 26 years. Thank God we have it, but it’s very limited,” said Nelson. “It’s pretty dysfunctional as a model, but to the credit of the people that run it, they do an incredible job with very limited resources.”
The seasonal operation of the current shelter presents other issues, Nelson said.
Social workers do not have permanent offices there and the temporary nature of the armory shelter present other issues.
The setup and teardown of the shelter every year reduces the span of time it can serve the homeless.
“The lack of 24/7 services just creates an awkwardness every day,” Nelson said. “People are needlessly queued up at the end of the afternoon only because they cannot get in until a certain hour, and they are all required to leave at a very early hour.”
Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald questioned the current state of the shelter and the lack of plans for long-term transitional operations.
The Board of Supervisors approved a plan earlier this month to purchase a closed Linder’s Furniture store at 301 State College Blvd. for around $3.2 million.
The building acquisition was funded by Fund 15B, which is controlled by the County Executive Office.
The proposed shelter would be operated by an independent organization.
Mercy House currently operates the Fullerton Armory Shelter, but it is unclear if the same organization will operate the proposed shelter.
The acquired property is a nearly 30,000 square foot industrial/retail building constructed in 1970. The county paid slightly more than market value to purchase the property from a private owner.
The North County Roundtable on Homelessness, convened by Nelson, determined the State College site as the best location due to an Orange County Transportation Authority and City of Fullerton joint road grade project.
Following the death of Kelly Thomas, the homeless schizophrenic killed by police in 2011, Orange County officials convened to lay out an aggressive plan to end homelessness in Orange County.
This comprehensive plan contains strategies to curb and eventually eliminate homelessness in Orange County.
The implementation of a year-round homeless shelter was the number one recommendation in the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness approved by the Board of Supervisors last year.
The Commission to End Homelessness was established to ensure implementation of the ten-year plan.
It was determined that a shelter which operates year-round is needed in Orange County to replace the seasonal Armory Emergency Shelter Program.
Homeless man Curtis Gamble addressed the chamber when the floor was opened to public comment. “I wanted to share with you what a homeless person looks like,” said Gamble.
Gamble spoke out in support of the shelter with his bags by his side.
“This facility will give us an opportunity to leave our bags and our belongings and have an opportunity to go look for a job,” Gamble said.
A community meeting to specifically address this proposed shelter will be held at the Fullerton Library on March 11 at 6:30 p.m.