If the Fourth of July fireworks at Tustin High School last week were not enough for you, try coming to this Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The topic of discussion, of course, will be the growing community of homeless living next to the Tustin Library. I’d compare it to the tent camp along the Santa Ana Riverbed except it isnt nearly that size – or that filthy.
The camp has become a source of concern, discussion and -in some cases- entertainment on the local website, Nextdoor.com, a sort of local email/blog where anyone can start a discussion on just about anything they like. Over two dozen people have contributed over 300 comments on the homeless encampment alone.
It all started several months ago when the Tustin Branch Library was suddenly shuttered for repairs after suffering massive water damage. Although officials said the water damage was minimal and the library would re-open in a few week, it remains shuttered two and a half months later. The library itself is a county issue and the city has little power to move things along.
Shortly after the closure, a few homeless began hanging out in the area. With no one to bother them, they eventually set up a dozen tents, mostly in the plaza next to the library, and remained low key. With little traffic in the area, they went pretty much unnoticed on a daily basis.
That all changed about a month ago when citizens came, en mass, to the June 20th city council meeting to ask the city what they planned to do about it. The city council listened to concerns but was unable to address the situation because the subject wasn’t on the agenda.
Surprisingly, the city is responding with restraint. City Manager Jeff Parker said that a solution would be to declare the area around the library a city park, allowing police to arrest campers. “But, that doesn’t seem morally appropriate.” We agree, of course, as it won’t solve the problem. The city recently put a “Homelessness” button on the front page of their website.
Tustin has never had a very large homeless population (the staff report pegs it at two dozen). Prior to the library encampment, most of them hung around Peppertree Park and the Old Town area. Closing down the encampment will just push them back onto the streets and into our neighborhoods. The city claims they regularly try to provide comprehensive services but, frankly, most of the homeless camped there (yes, I stopped by and dropped of water on a hot day) are not interested in services or alternatives to their lifestyle.
For the time being, the encampment may be the best way to handle the situation. At the very least, the homeless are pretty much in one location. Concerns over drug and alcohol use are minimal, although arrests for both have been made. The police check the area regularly and, unlike the Santa Ana Riverbed encampment, the place is clean – I daresay, neat and tidy. Some residents have opined that moving them to an industrial area and providing sanitary services would solve the problem. The trouble is, the homeless may not agree. And contrary to what some would like, they can’t just be rounded up and shipped out.
In any case, if you are one of the two dozen or so folks who have made their feelings known on the neighborhood blog, you will have the opportunity to address our city council on the matter this Tuesday at 7pm. You may want to get there early and, if you forget your water, you can probably bum a bottle from one of the homeless camped out back.
We just received this today. This is the first time in almost seven years that Section 8 Housing vouchers will be made available in Orange County. If you know someone who may qualify for housing assistance, then please pass this information to them. Because “affordable housing” is largely a myth here in the Real OC, this opportunity may not come back for a long time. This is also not a very well publicized program so those that may really need help may not be aware of it unless we as a community spread the word.
Orange County Rental Assistance Waiting List to Open
Opportunity for Section 8 Housing Assistance for Very Low-Income Individuals, Families, Seniors, and Disabled in Orange County
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 11, 2012
CONTACT: Karen Roper (714) 480-2805
(Santa Ana – CA) The Orange County Housing Authority (OCHA) will open its Waiting List to accept pre-applications for housing assistance from February 15, 2012 until February 29, 2012. The Section 8 Waiting List is the only opportunity for very low-income families, seniors, disabled persons, and individuals to obtain a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. Due to the limited number of vouchers and the large number of people that applied, the last time OCHA’s Waiting List was last opened was November 2005. The February 2012 Waiting List opening may be the only opportunity for Orange County residents to apply for many years to come. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and enables OCHA to subsidize monthly rent payments for qualified applicants who live or work in 31 cities in Orange County. The Cities of Anaheim, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana operate their own housing authorities and have separate waiting lists for their residents.
“The opening of the Waiting List for Housing Assistance is a tremendous opportunity for our very low-income families, individuals, seniors, and disabled persons who live in Orange County,” stated Karen Roper, Director, OC Community Services. “A Housing Choice Voucher often provides the only means for these Orange County residents to have a safe and affordable place to live and I encourage every eligible person to submit an application.”
Section 8 Voucher assistance allows a very low-income family, senior, disabled person, or individual to pay approximately 30% of their monthly income towards rent. The remaining rental amount is paid by OCHA directly to the property owner or manager. Applicants must earn below 50% of the County’s median income. For a family of four, that amount is $48,150 while the amount for an individual is $33,750. OCHA serves most Orange County cities and all unincorporated areas, with the exception of the Cities of Anaheim, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana.
Beginning February 15, 2012, applications for the Waiting List will be available online at http://www.ochousing.org or at participating cities and branches of the Orange County Public Library. Applications will also be available at select community organizations. Numerous community partners will have computers available to apply online and applicants are strongly encouraged to use this method which will provide an immediate confirmation.
Applications can be submitted in three ways:
Online at http://www.ochousing.org, Beginning 12:01 a.m. February 15, 2012 through 11:59 p.m. on February 29, 2012, or
faxed to (714) 667-6544, Beginning 12:01 a.m. February 15, 2012 through 11:59 p.m. on February 29, 2012, or
mailed to P.O. Box 22005, Santa Ana, CA 92702 and postmarked from February 15 through February 29, 2012.
No applications will be accepted at cities, libraries, or the OCHA office. Only one application per household will be accepted. Submitted applications are not considered first come, first served. Accepted applications will be grouped by preference categories (veteran, senior, disabled, working family or individual residing within OCHA’s jurisdiction). Applicants will be randomly placed within their qualifying preference group.
Interested persons are encouraged to log onto http://www.ochousing.org or call OCHA’s Waiting List Information Line (714) 480-2740 for updated information (including locations of community partners with computer access). Instructions and applications will be available online beginning February 15. Applicants will be able to apply directly online or the application forms can be printed and submitted by mail or fax.