FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 1, 2016
CONTACT: Alma Flores, Communications Manager, City of Santa Ana (714) 647-5200, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Pro Tem Sarmiento along with Councilmembers Martinez and Reyna Seek to Declare Public Health and Safety Crisis Related to Homelessness
Urging County of Orange to Open Former Transit Terminal for Homeless Services
Santa Ana, CA – Facing mounting public health and safety impacts in the Civic Center and throughout Santa Ana, Mayor Pro Tem Vicente Sarmiento, Councilwoman Michele Martinez and Councilmember Roman Reyna will bring forward a resolution before the Santa Ana City Council declaring a public health and safety crisis related to the large concentration of homeless and urging the County of Orange to take immediate action to provide services to the homeless at the Santa Ana Transit Terminal which the County owns and controls. The item will appear on the September 6th Council Agenda for consideration of the full City Council. The resolution also calls for a number of improvements to enhance public health and safety within the Civic Center and for the support of all Orange County cities to adopt a resolution encouraging action by the County of Orange.
Homelessness is one of the most pervasive challenges facing cities throughout California with the majority of homeless in Orange County primarily congregating in the Civic Center. It is estimated that more than 400 homeless sleep on the Civic Center grounds daily. Homeless encampments plague the entire Civic Center campus and the impacts are overwhelming. The Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) has a dedicated patrol of seven full-time officers who are specially trained to work with the homeless population in the Civic Center. Since the beginning of this year, SAPD has issued over 400 citations for violations of the law.
As the primary entity charged with addressing homelessness, the County of Orange has received more than $150 million in Homeless Assistance Funding since 1996. On an annual basis, the County receives approximately $23.2 million in federal and state funding specifically to reduce homelessness and in 2008 the County adopted its “Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness.” Yet, despite having a formal plan in place, the homeless population has only significantly increased since the adoption of its Ten-Year Plan, eight years ago. Shouldering more than its fair share of this regional challenge, the City of Santa Ana spends close to $5 million annually on addressing homelessness.
The City of Santa Ana has long sought the partnership and collaboration of the County. On December 16th of 2014, the City Council approved partnership funding and voted to encourage the County of Orange to provide homeless services at the Santa Ana Transit Terminal which was then owned by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in an effort to move the homeless population from the Civic Center area where the public’s business is conducted. Several months ago, the County purchased the Transit Terminal but has yet to announce any specific plans to provide services at that location.
If adopted, the resolution calls for several other specific actions, such as directing the City Manager to convene a meeting of all 34 Orange County cities to discuss homelessness and develop a plan to implement a number of public health and safety measures in the Civic Center area including: improved lighting, increasing the number of police officers and security guards, relocating the state-authorized needle exchange program operating adjacent to City Hall, identifying a better location for charitable and volunteer organizations to feed the homeless, setting-up an information kiosk for the visiting public, increasing staff available to enforce code violations and prosecute crimes, and providing employees with better parking accommodations, shortening the distance many currently walk to and from their cars.
Given the crisis situation, the resolution also requests a response from the County of Orange by September 9th regarding their plan to open the former Transit Terminal for homeless services. A letter to all Orange County cities will also go out immediately following the adoption of the resolution seeking their support to urge the County of Orange to take action.
The Council Meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 6th at 5:45 p.m. in the Council Chambers, located at 22 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana. A map with parking information is available at: www.santa-ana.org/CivicCenterMap.