By Huw Pickering/Orange County Tribune
The Huntington Beach City Council voted 6 – 0 Tusday night – with Councilmember Mike Posey absent – to approve a response to a report given by the Orange County Grand Jury regarding the homelessness crisis. The report, while praising improvements that have been made in addressing homelessness in Surf City and in the county, argued that a number of issues remain problematic.
The grand jury collaborated with the Orange County Continuum of Care, whose role it is to distribute federal funding to rehouse the homeless, to produce the report. In a positive light rental assistance programs had prevented people from losing the roof over their heads, outreach programs that allowed more people to obtain housing, a greater number of beds in shelters, and more permanent housing.
Huntington Beach has a pop-up “Navigation Center” that offers shelter as well as services to help the homeless deal with physical and mental health issues, addiction and in seeking employment. A permanent facility is contemplated.
However, efforts to reduce the problem have been impeded by three chief factors.
Firstly, that the homeless are constantly forced to relocate, after requests to do so are made to police officers. This causes the homeless to simply move from area to area while failing to alleviate their situation.
Secondly, that some local governments in the county, such as Placentia, have passed ordinances that criminalize camping in public, which many homeless people are forced to do. Once such camping is criminalized, these homeless people can be arrested, preventing them from accessing the mental health services they so often need.
Thirdly, that there exists opposition by local residents to the perceived subsidization of the homeless at the expense of the taxpayer, meaning that local shelters have not received the funding they need.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilmember Kim Carr focused on the policies towards homelessness and housing that set Huntington Beach apart from other communities in the county.
“We have a model that every city should replicate,” Carr said, referring to the Be Well Mobile Crisis Response unit, which travels to calls made by those experiencing mental health issues and seeks to prevent these callers from causing themselves harm, as well as finding them shelter. This latter point is important, as 49 percent of calls to the Be Well team come from those without housing, she added.
Categories: Huntington Beach