The City of Brea is part of an unprecedented effort with 10 other North Orange County cities that have collaborated on a regional plan to address homelessness in the North Service Planning Area (North SPA). The plan includes the construction and operation of two shelters, called “Navigation Centers” in the cities of Buena Park and Placentia that will provide up to 250 additional beds. The Centers are anticipated to open in early 2020. The Navigation Centers work not only to house the homeless, but provide health resources, job and social skills and opportunities to reunite with friends and family, with the goal of decreasing the number of homeless overall.
The North Orange County cities, entered into a Settlement Agreement in the case of the Orange County Catholic Worker, et al., v. Orange County, the City of Anaheim, the City of Costa Mesa, and the City of Orange. The Agreement, approved on June 28, 2019, provides for increased shelter capacity in North Orange County; details responsibilities and policies; and allows cities to enforce their local ordinances regarding overnight camping and other related laws, as long as shelter capacity exists. Without joining in this agreement, Brea would not be able to legally prevent encampments from developing on public property, including sidewalks, city facilities, parks, etc.
“The City of Brea and neighboring North Orange County cities are making an investment in their communities, said Brea Mayor Christine Marick. We have taken our share of the responsibility and will receive the benefits of these actions. The County has committed that these beds will be earmarked for North SPA cities,” she continued. “Residents have the right to the safe and secure enjoyment of their community. Likewise, there are a number of people living in homelessness, who need our help, and thanks to this successful effort, we will have additional resources to provide much-needed assistance,” she concluded.
A city’s right to enforce anti-camping laws in public spaces was tested in Martin v. Boise (2018). The case involved six homeless residents of the city of Boise who alleged that the city’s Camping and Disorderly Conduct ordinances were unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that these ordinances violate the Eighth Amendment when enforced against those who have been forced to sleep outdoors because they cannot obtain shelter.
Complying with a mandate from the U.S. District Judge David Carter, cities in the North SPA have been collaborating on this issue since late last year. Brea City Manager Bill Gallardo was a member of the City Manager MOU working group charged with developing an agreement between all 11 North SPA cities to govern the construction, operational and financial aspects of the two Navigation Centers. The cost for construction and ongoing operations will be shared proportionately, based on homeless counts, by participating cities. (Host cities costs will be decreased to cover ancillary costs.) Notably, research indicates that costs are markedly lower for cities when the homeless are housed. This proactive, collaborative effort paid off as it was an integral part of getting the Settlement Agreement approved. The Brea City Council, along with the Councils of the other cites, approved their respective MOUs over the last couple of months.
The North Service Planning Area cities have made a courageous, collective decision to invest in a system of care to address homelessness regionally,” said Susan Price, Orange County Director of Care Coordination. “By providing options for housing those experiencing homelessness, the North Service Planning Area cities have positioned themselves well to tackle the issue, balancing the needs of people living in homelessness with the interests of their constituents,” she continued.
To address the homelessness issue, the County of Orange designated three Service Planning Areas. The North, Central and South SPAs will serve to direct resources to homeless individuals and families access the county’s Coordinated Entry System. The North SPA consists of the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Orange, Placentia, Stanton, Villa Park and Yorba Linda. (The cities of Anaheim and Orange had previously settled. The City of Los Alamitos did not join the final Settlement Agreement.)
The non-profit organization, 2-1-2 Orange County notes that the homeless often have to navigate a complicated maze of programs and services. Studies have shown that a more effective way to respond to the crisis of homelessness is for cities to cooperate regionally and develop systems that streamline and facilitate access to housing.