HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.—Officials in Huntington Beach held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to signify the opening of a new navigation center that will provide shelter and services for the city’s homeless population.
The navigation center, located at 17642 Beach Boulevard near Cameron Lane, will provide comprehensive support services to the needy and will be equipped with 24/7 security. The shelter is a large tent, called a “sprung” structure, designed to house 174 homeless adults.
Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta said that “homeless-related issues are consistently cited as one of the top concerns across Orange County” when she spoke at the Nov. 2 ribbon-cutting event.
“As all of us here today know, homelessness has always been one of society’s most vexing issues and an issue with no clear or easy solutions. Homelessness affects all of us. We all feel the problem of homelessness. It goes against our humanity to see a person sleeping on the streets,” Semeta told the audience.
“For us here locally in Huntington Beach, residents have also ranked homelessness as their top priority. For the past five years, the city has been working diligently to address that concern,” she said.
“And we’ve been focused on the issue not just because our constituents have demanded that we tackle the issue of homelessness, but we worked on it to find a solution in Huntington Beach because we know that our city is made up of neighborhoods of people, people who want to help each other.”
In addition to the large tent, the new navigation center also features nearby trailers that will be used as a dining room, a common area, restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities.
Semeta touched on how the center will be able to help individuals who have had unfortunate circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the current pandemic continues, the center that’s been built here has become more important than ever. It provides a safe and sanitary space for the homeless to isolate from the virus. It also provides a shelter for residents who are facing housing insecurities during these difficult economic times,” Semeta said.
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel spoke about the impact of the “transitional shelter for Huntington Beach’s homeless population.”
“The state-of-the-art facility will allow clients to stay all day, provide three meals a day, have medical assistance as well as mental health and substance abuse programs, and have on-site laundry, showers, and bathrooms,” Steel said.
“We’ll have a dog run for people with pets, and a shuttle service available for transportation in and out. Most importantly, it will ensure the security of the individuals staying in this facility, as well as the surrounding communities, by accepting clients by referring them through city outreach and local law enforcement.”
Steel said that before clients are allowed to stay at the center, they will need to go through a background check, and the city will not permit walk-ins or walk-outs. The center will also strictly forbid sex offenders and individuals with active felony warrants.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the needs of the homeless population and how the issue of homelessness is more than just about shelter. It is about addressing the needs of the whole person, from shelter to mental health and to physical health,” Steel said.
Mercy House, an organization that works to end homelessness, will manage day-to-day operations for the shelter.
“When it comes to Mercy House’s focus here, yes, it’s about shelter, yes, it’s about services. But you cannot invite us to talk about homelessness and not mention housing. We at Mercy House do not believe in managing homelessness, we believe in ending homelessness,” said Larry Haynes, the executive director of Mercy House.
Officials broke ground on the project on Aug. 27. The new complex was designed to provide housing for a majority of the city’s estimated homeless population, allowing Huntington Beach police to enforce anti-encampment ordinances.
The availability of beds would make it illegal for transients to camp in public parks by providing another option. In 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that homeless people could not be punished for sleeping outside on public property if they had no alternative.
According to Orange County’s most recent point-in-time count in 2019, Huntington Beach had approximately 349 homeless individuals in the city, while 6,860 individuals were homeless throughout the county.