By Amir Ghani/Orange County Tribune
The Westminster City Council will consider a proposal from City Manager Christine Cordon and city staff on Wednesday detailing a $4 million funding request to help purchase and fund a new “navigation center” to aid the local houseless community. This money would come from the city’s general fund reserves account and help to support the center for the next 10 years.
The new navigation center would assist the houseless located in and around Westminster, Garden Grove, and Fountain Valley. The building itself is an industrial warehouse and is located in Garden Grove. This means Garden Grove will act as the lead agency for the center, and will be responsible for maintenance and any possible upgrades that may be needed.
The building has the capacity to hold 85 beds and serve up to 100 individuals that may be in need. In addition to these sleeping spaces, other amenities available would include a laundry room, a kitchen, a dining area, and additional resources regarding mental health, substance abuse, and educational services.
Orange County has committed $11.3 million to the project, which leaves Westminster’s share at around $7.1 million. The $11.3 million will be broken up into an initial contribution of $5.3 million with a recurring contribution of $625,000 for the next ten years. Annually, the operating cost is estimated to be around $495,000.
As outlined in the proposal, the navigation center is committed to community communication and will keep in touch with its neighbors on a regular basis. This ensures the community will remain educated and aware of the center.
If approved, the city will begin to allocate funds and move to drafting a final, more comprehensive memorandum of understanding between all cities involved in the project. This memorandum of understanding would then be presented to the city council in the near future.
Also, city staff of Westminster is recommending that the council uses funds allocated by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). The city must commit the funds to be used by Dec. 31, 2024 and spend them by Dec. 31, 2026.
The funds given total $23.7 million and were appropriated directly to the city from the federal government in two sections, one that was distributed in May 2021, and the other in May 2022.
Some recommendations ARPA gives to cities to use these funds include helping to support their local public health systems, addressing negative economic impacts as a result of the pandemic, and to improve water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. The city cannot use funds to pay pensions, offset tax cuts, fund debts, or to fund legal settlements or judgements.
On March 9, the council held a study session to review different programs that may be eligible for funding allocation. The main services they feel need the most funding are public safety and security, community improvements, community assistance, homelessness, and the development of affordable housing.
If approved by council, $19.6 million of the ARPA funds would be used towards these categories, with $4 million going towards the new Navigation Center that will directly address homelessness in the community.
The council will meet in its chambers in 8200 Westminster Blvd. at 7 p.m.