San Clemente's city facilities could house homeless
Orange County Register (CA), 2014-07-17
July 17 -- San Clemente's struggle to identify sites to allow homeless shelters in town may focus on churches and publicly zoned properties, including City Hall and the city's public-works installations on Avenida Pico .
The City Council indicated Tuesday night that it may want to go a different direction than the Planning Commission's recent shelter solution -- property in the Rancho San Clemente Business Park , in an industrial zone behind Denny's Restaurant and at individual churches.
State law requires all California cities to zone areas where the city lets churches or nonprofits establish facilities to shelter homeless people overnight. At sites zoned for this, shelter sponsors just have to meet basic rules to open a shelter, rather than apply for a comprehensive permit the city could impose conditions on or reject.
San Clemente figures it needs to authorize sites around town to provide 70 shelter beds to comply with state law, enough to serve the estimated number of chronically homeless people around town. After 70 beds, the city would require permits for any more.
More than three dozen people addressed the City Council , most of them fearing a homeless shelter in the Rancho San Clemente Business Park would cause dire economic consequences for the successful business community there and would endanger the quality of life in the business park and for residents of the Rancho San Clemente .
Other speakers felt a shelter behind Denny's would make life worse in the surrounding area and in North Beach , a short walk away.
Other speakers supported the Planning Commission's solution, suggesting that providing help for the helpless is a moral obligation and impacts would be minimal with a shelter that offers daytime services for its clients, not just food and a bed.
Council members said they prefer to have the city and churches share the responsibilities of locating shelters, allowing churches to house up to 10 beds each while the city could let nonprofits operate shelters of up to 20 beds in public facilities the city identifies as suitable.
This proposal would be similar to one adopted by Dana Point .
City Hall at 100 Avenida Presidio and city facilities at 380 Avenida Pico were mentioned as potential public sites.
The council stopped short of voting on this so the city can alert residents near public sites who may want to have a say when the council takes up the idea at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 at City Hall .
Between now and then, city staff will inventory the city's publicly zoned sites and prepare a list for the council.
Critics said wherever a shelter locates, there will be daytime impacts on the outlying area. The resources will attract more homeless, they said, and some homeless will go there for services but will still set up an encampment outside to not have to share a dorm with shelter inhabitants who have chronic criminal, mental or drug issues.
"Who wouldn't want to be homeless in San Clemente ? If you build a shelter, they will come," resident Anthony LaFrano told the council. "More homeless with drug problems, more drug dealers, more crime -- more crime equals more money to fight crime, more money that we don't have."
Resident Justin McCarthy said that with prison realignment, some shelter clients figure to be parolees or early-release inmates. This may include sex offenders, other speakers said.
Shelter advocates said if the city, community and shelter providers work together, a shelter will remove the need to camp in canyons and will provide daytime job training, counseling, medications, laundry and showers that will be incentives for clients to come in out of the cold and "not be that public hazard that they are now," Nancy McIntyre said.
Social worker Barbara Scheinman said local homeless are dying on the streets, need help and will not go to other areas with services because they see this as their home.
"They have told me they would use shelters here," she said.
"It's really too bad it has to be mandated by law," resident Sandra Weaver told the council.
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