Local News

Shortcomings and Progress in Homeless Crisis, according to OC Grand Jury Report

An Orange County Grand Jury report released June 23 praised some aspects of the County’s response to the homelessness crisis, stating that the County has made some progress working with independent organizations and boards in increasing the amount of shelter beds, outreach to the unhoused regarding COVID-19, and vouchers for permanent housing. Orange County’s homeless population has declined by 17 percent in the past three years, according to the L.A. Times, although critics charge that may be an undercount.

A volunteer conducting the latest homeless Point in Time Count. Photo by Jane Rands.

Specifically, the Grand Jury praised ‘navigation shelters’ in the report, which it defines as “another name for emergency shelter, emphasizing the service provided to residents to navigate to permanent housing, jobs, medical care, and other independent living skills,” including Fullerton’s Illumination Foundation Navigation Center on Commonwealth Ave. in its commendations for providing critical services to the unhoused.

However, the Grand Jury Report found that these efforts are still not sufficient in fully tackling homelessness, identifying many problems in the way the County is dealing with the issue as well. The lack of a needed emergency shelter in South Orange County, as well as no existing court-ordered treatment for those unhoused with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems, and a lack of permanent housing for those exiting homelessness are among significant “shortcomings and bottlenecks” identified in the report.

In total, the Grand Jury’s report estimated that Orange County spent around $1.6 billion tackling homelessness in the year of 2021, including prevention, outreach, shelter, housing as well as on the unhoused who were in jail or within the criminal justice system.

Doug Chaffee, who represents Fullerton in the Board of Supervisors, is unable to respond to the report until the Board of Supervisors makes their comment on the Grand Jury’s report to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court within 90 days of the report’s release, as required under California Penal Code Section 933. Chaffee’s opponent for Supervisor, Sunny Park, who is currently the Mayor of Buena Park, told the Voice of OC that she agreed with the report’s conclusions, stating that “the reality is that our county continues to not have enough safe housing available for people who go into shelters, including youth aging out of foster care.” Park also stated that more affordable housing is needed to prevent currently housed families from falling into homelessness.

According to an estimate by the Orange County Business Council, Orange County has 65,000 too few homes “to meet the housing needs of the people who already live and work here,” and the organization states that building more affordable housing is critical to reducing homelessness, a conclusion echoed in the Grand Jury’s report.

To read the Grand Jury report click HERE.