Regional Effort to Address Homelessness

In an effort to comply with a Federal Mandate as well as a recent case law, Martin v. Boise (2018), the North Specific Planning Area (SPA), comprised of the cities of Placentia, Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Orange, Villa Park, Stanton, and Yorba Linda are collaborating on a regional approach to address homelessness in the North SPA.

Based on the local mandate by U.S. District Federal Judge David Carter, cities in the North SPA are required to work on a homeless housing plan for the region, which shall include creating Navigation Centers designed to house and service North Orange County cities’ homeless population. The requirement for North SPA is to create Navigation Centers that would provide comprehensive supportive services including vocational services, recreational services, mental health, transportation services and 200 beds to the homeless residents of the North Orange County region. If cities do not comply with the mandate to add emergency housing, they will not legally be able to keep the homeless from creating an encampment in public areas, such as city halls, senior centers, parks and neighborhood sidewalks, including sidewalks in front of residents’ homes.

This decision along with the recent Orange County Federal Court case presiding under Judge Carter significantly limits the City’s ability to manage and control homeless proliferation and public camping in our community. In order to comply with these Federal requirements and court decisions, and to ensure that the City maintains local control over enforcement of its own anti-camping ordinance in public areas, including public sidewalks, the City of Placentia along with the North SPA cities have identified two potential locations for Navigation Centers– one in Placentia and one in Buena Park. 

On Tuesday January 15, 2019 City Administrator Damien Arrula provided a comprehensive presentation to the City Council and the public on homelessness in Placentia and encampment areas throughout the City. After extensive Council discussion, the Council agreed to have Staff further analyze homelessness in the City, conduct its due diligence on the proposed site and conduct community meetings to receive feedback from the community.

After community input as well as site evaluations, 731 S. Melrose Street, which is located in an industrial portion of the City, was purchased to serve as the Navigation Center. The proposed location was identified as a suitable location for safely housing persons that are experiencing homelessness as well as addressing the following factors: 

  • Siting for Industrial zone (meets SB2 zone criteria)
  • Community feedback
  • Property is available for purchase and can accommodate up to 100 beds per Federal lawsuit
  • Proximity to residential areas
  • Cost of construction, suitable security and operational plan, and well managed wraparound services. 

In addition, the proposed Navigation Center will be contingent upon receiving additional grant funding for construction improvements, operations and maintenance of the Navigation Centers. 

The management and operational plan for the Navigation Centers will specify certain requirements to ensure local control for providing safe and secure housing as well as providing comprehensive programs and services. The Navigation Center, run by People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), will be referral-only based facilities with managed and controlled access in and out via transportation only.  The proposed Navigation Centers will work not only to house the homeless, but to provide health resources, job and social skills, and opportunities to reunite with family and friends, with the goal of integrating North Orange County’s homeless to become productive members of society while decreasing the number of homeless in public areas. 

Current Enforcement of the City's Anti-camping Ordinance

The City has thus far utilized a variety of tools to enforce the City’s anti-camping laws while at the same time providing compassion to the homeless population. The City has established a Homeless Task Force comprised of Mayor Pro Tem Ward Smith, City Staff, HIS House, Cal Trans, BNSF, Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol. The TaskForce meets bi-weekly and as a result has initiated enforcement and clean up along areas near the 57 freeway and rail road tracks. Despite these collaborative efforts, the homeless population continues to grow.

According to the most recent 2017 Point-in-Time count conducted by the County of Orange, there were approximately 4,792 people in Orange County whom have experienced homelessness (2,584 of whom were unsheltered) on any given night. This represents a 7% increase from 2015. The majority of Orange County’s homeless, whether male or female, are U.S. citizens and long-term Orange County residents of over 10 years vs. people who are brought to Orange County from other counties.

Homeless Encampment Cleaning Efforts

On Tuesday August 26, the City conducted a temporary sidewalk and slope cleaning of the Crowther homeless encampment. The cleaning included powerwashing the sidewalks, clearing the area, debris removal, and the addition of a yellow line on the sidewalk to maintain 36 inches of walkable space per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The City coordinated the cleanup with Plaintiff's Counsel and Judge Carter to ensure the cleaning will be in accordance with all requirements as well working with the Orange County Health Care Agency, City Net, Placentia Police and Public Works, BNSF, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Caltrans to assist in the safe and orderly cleaning of the area. The City cannot permanently remove the encampment due to the Martin v. Boise (2018) ruling and until the Placentia Navigation Center is operational, the encampment can remain under the freeway. Notices were posted and distributed in the area as well as a street closure notice

Moving forward, the City will enforce clearance of the ADA sidewalk area, conduct regular trash pick-up, as well as site or arrest individuals engaging in vandalism, trespassing, or other illegal activity at the Crowther homeless encampment.

The City's mobile App, iPlacentia, has a Homelessness Concerns section as well as the ability to report Abandoned Items or report Homeless Encampments to the City. Visit the App Store or GooglePlay to download iPlacentia today and stay up-to-date as well as report concerns.

Additional Resources