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Supervisors Vote to Seek Coordination of Services to Homeless

Times Staff Writer

Without spending any money, the Board of Supervisors took steps Tuesday to do what it can for homelessness by ordering a 90-day study on ways to make existing services more efficient and designating a contact person for homelessness issues.

“Coordination is the key term here,” said Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder, who also directed the county staff to explore the possibility of creating a full-time staff position devoted to homelessness issues.

The board’s unanimous vote was partly in response to a recent grand jury report that suggested the county could be more effective in orchestrating its care of the homeless.

Board Chairman Thomas F. Riley also said the board’s move would help focus the efforts of private and nonprofit groups working with the homeless. As an example, Riley said the Orange County Building Industry Assn. met with supervisors recently to seek direction on how it can provide assistance to the homeless.

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Coordination Urged

As a result of the board’s unanimous vote, the county administrative office will assign a staff person to be a liaison with community groups, cities and county agencies that deal with the homeless. The supervisors also ordered the administrative office to outline a plan within 90 days for making homeless services more efficient.

Because of a tight budget, Riley said the county cannot assume full responsibility for the homeless.

Scott Mather, director of the county’s Homeless Issues Task Force, said he was happy with the vote.

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“Just the fact that they’re willing to listen and begin to take some public position to deal with it, to me is a tremendous step,” Mather said. “I think it’s real good . . . it’s exciting.”

Mather said the biggest obstacles in addressing problems of the homeless are money and the inconsistent directions of the county’s 28 cities. He said the supervisors’ vote to organize its resources could be especially helpful if it streamlines the process of applying for federal and state grants and improves communication between jurisdictions.

About 4,000 in County

Officials estimate there are about 4,000 homeless people living in Orange County.

In a related development Tuesday, Supervisor Roger R. Stanton proposed that the county explore the possibility of sharing some costs for care of the homeless with its major cities.

Stanton suggested that the county and each city that receives federal Housing and Community Development Block Grant money contribute a portion of that money to a countywide pool. He said the pool could be used to build transitional housing that would be provided to people living in homeless shelters long enough for them to save enough money for rental housing.

If 7.5% of the federal money given to the county and cities was put into the pool, Stanton estimated it would create an annual fund of about $1.4 million.

Stanton’s suggestion is scheduled to be considered by the supervisors at next Tuesday’s meeting.

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