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Orange County Moves its Largest Homeless Shelter Starting Around the New YearVoice of OC


Orange County is getting ready to open a new, larger shelter in Santa Ana to replace its open-air bus terminal shelter in the city’s Civic Center.

The new 425-bed Yale Transitional Center will be about a half-mile south of Centennial Park, and is slated to open around the end of the year, with county contractors scheduled to transport residents there from the existing Courtyard shelter until sometime in January when the Courtyard closes.

Once that happens, the county will no longer run low-barrier shelters in central OC where homeless people can walk in and walk out.

The Los Angeles-based nonprofit group PATH is on track to operate the Yale shelter at a cost of $6.4 million per year, under a contract up for approval Tuesday by county supervisors.

Questions remain about how long people will stay at the shelter – amid concerns that it will be just another warehouse – while county officials say it will significantly help efforts to connect people to treatment and job services as well as longer-term housing.

“They’re staying longer at these shelters,” said Ceci Iglesias, a Republican former member of the Santa Ana City Council who represented the community around the Yale shelter.

“It’s going to be hard to find them a one-bedroom apartment. It’s very expensive to live here in Orange County,” she added.

“It’s no secret…that the only thing that solves homelessness is housing– that housing first is the most cost-effective and humane shelter,” said Brooke Weitzman, a leading attorney for homeless people in Orange County. “Congregate shelter is the most expensive and least effective.”

Three years ago, homeless people were sent back to the streets from a county shelter intended to help people transition to housing because homes weren’t available before they hit a 6-month limit to stay there.

But county officials say that’s changing, with about 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing now under construction or going through the funding process in Orange County. About 100 units have been built so far, and between 7,000 and 10,000 homeless people lived in Orange County as of the latest counts.

The Yale shelter will be a key part of helping homeless people connect to housing, said Jason Austin, who coordinates the county’s homeless services as director of care coordination.

“They will have substance abuse counselors on site, they’ll have clinicians on site working with people,” as well as help with finding jobs and a “real focus on housing,” Austin said in an interview Friday.


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