Huntington Beach homeless shelter set to open in November

A homeless shelter has been approved for 17631 Cameron Lane, pictured.
The Huntington Beach City Council voted to authorize a 174-bed homeless shelter at 17631 Cameron Lane and 17642 Beach Boulevard.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach City Council voted 6-0 on Monday night to take action to begin operation of an expanded 174-bed homeless shelter facility.

The facility, located at 17631 Cameron Lane and 17642 Beach Blvd., would be larger than the original 75-bed proposal. City Manager Oliver Chi said that city staff has been negotiating to lease the Beach site to facilitate the larger facility, which would meet U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter’s ruling that 60% of the current homeless population — estimated at 289 people in 2019 — have shelter beds before the city can enforce anti-camping, anti-loitering ordinances.

Councilman Erik Peterson was absent from the meeting, but several of the other council members in attendance praised Chi and city staff for their work on establishing the shelter. It would be run by Mercy House Living Centers, with an estimated first-year cost of $2.6 million, and is scheduled to open on Nov. 2.

The city can afford it, as it has received about $4.2 million of restricted COVID-19 funding, though Community Development Block Grant and SB2 funds would also be used for the contract with Mercy House.

Huntington Beach has been trying to seriously assess homeless-related issues since late 2013, Chi said in a presentation to the council, and has considered 35 different shelter sites over the last several years.

“We’ve been looking at all of these options and trying to find a fit, trying to find the right solution,” Councilman Patrick Brenden said. “I think none of us would disagree with our community that this is the most pressing issue we face, and all of us share the frustration of not having been able to make anything go until now. But you know, sometimes the best solutions take time ... and I think that’s exactly what’s happened here.”

While both the Cameron and Beach locations do have soil contamination present, Chi said the Orange County Public Health Agency found that it would be safe to operate a shelter on the site if an asphalt pavement cover is placed over the soil.

A proposal by Peterson to construct a temporary facility on Gothard Avenue was tabled 5-2 at the last council meeting on July 20. Chi said that though the Cameron site has been delayed since a 75-bed facility was approved in April, getting an alternate site up and running would take as many as 18 weeks.

“Just hearing everyone talk tonight really makes me think about this process that we’ve been through, and how the community has come along so far to understanding how necessary this shelter is,” Mayor Lyn Semeta said. “We got so much resistance in the early days. The community was frightened about the whole concept, and so I think we’ve come such a long way in helping them understand the necessity of doing this, as well as the humanitarian necessity. If we’re going to be able to enforce quality-of-life regulations, we have to have a shelter with the beds available.”

H.B. to close third block of Main Street

Council members voted 6-0 on Monday to close the third block of Main Street temporarily to vehicular traffic, to support local businesses looking to operate outdoors.

Businesses would be allowed to operate in the streets on the affected block, between Orange Avenue and Olive Avenue.

The second block of Main Street is already closed to vehicles after the council voted to close it on July 6, and the program has been well-received, Chi said.

5 receive H.B. Excellence award

Semeta also announced five recipients of the Mayor’s HB Excellence Award, a monthly award which had been stopped since March due to COVID-19.

Winners included principal civil engineer Debbie DuBow, police Sgt. Jerry Goodspeed, senior administrative analyst Kevin Justen, police Officer Anthony Pham and signs and marketing crew leader Terry Tintle. They were nominated by their fellow employees.

“We asked all of the employees to think about who really stepped up, who went the extra mile during COVID and deserves some extra recognition for that,” Semeta said.

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