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Orange County buys land in Santa Ana for year-round homeless shelter

Orange County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to buy a site in Santa Ana for a year-round emergency shelter — filling what homeless advocates have long called a gaping hole in services but also drawing ire from neighbors of the site.

Though the county operates an overnight emergency shelter seasonally — during cold weather, when nights are most dangerous for those living on the street — Orange County relies on a patchwork of nonprofit providers throughout the county to make short-term shelter available year-round.

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"Candidly, the current system — if it can be called a system — it's inadequate," Max Gardner, president of the United Way of Orange County, said in support of the measure.

In September, Santa Ana approved the construction of a 200-bed shelter and service facility, making it the first city in Orange County to allow a homeless shelter.

This week, the county Board of Supervisors approved the $3.6-million purchase of a 23,220-square-foot industrial warehouse, with plans to build the facility here.

The shelter, which county officials said will be run by a contractor, is intended to serve as a one-stop shop for a variety of services to help homeless find work or job training and stable housing.

According to a staff report, the shelter will cost about $2.6 million a year to operate, funded by a mix of county, federal and private money.

Its doors, officials said, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

"We applaud your efforts with backing the homeless shelter," said Karen Williams, president and chief executive of 211 Orange County. "Momentum is gaining to really address this issue."

But even as a string of regional stakeholders thanked the board for taking a step forward, residents of the neighborhood surrounding the site spoke out against the move, saying they didn't have enough of a chance to express their concerns to the city.

"This does not affect any of you guys," said Ruben Garcia, pointing at the supervisors. "See my hands? They're kind of rough, because I work hard for my kids and for my family, but I don't see any shelters in Irvine."

Twitter: @JillCowan

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