Huntington Beach breaks ground on 174-bed homeless navigation center on Cameron Lane

The city of Huntington Beach and Orange County broke ground on a 174-bed homeless navigation center on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The city of Huntington Beach took a step forward in its homeless efforts Thursday as it hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a 174-bed homeless navigation center.

The center, at 17631 Cameron Lane, and an adjacent lot, at 17642 Beach Blvd., is scheduled to open in November. It has been in the works since February, when the Huntington Beach City Council authorized city staff to purchase the property. Use of the site for the shelter was approved in April.

Earlier this month, the City Council voted 6-0 to take action to begin operation of the Cameron Lane site.

The center, which is being developed in partnership with Orange County, will provide temporary shelter and comprehensive support services for 174 homeless adults in Huntington Beach. Following its completion, the city will take ownership of the shelter, which will be operated by Mercy House.

“The groundbreaking of our navigation center symbolizes a major step forward in the city’s ongoing efforts to alleviate homelessness in Huntington Beach,” Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta said in a statement. “It demonstrates the city’s sincere commitment to support the most vulnerable members of our community by providing individuals with a safe space to regain their footing on the path toward housing security. The center will provide a secure place to sleep, as an alternative to camping in parks and open spaces.”

Navigation centers differ from traditional homeless shelters, which aim to maximize the number of beds available each night. Walk-ins will not be accepted at the navigation center, city officials said, to enhance the safety of the surrounding neighborhood and prevent loitering. All clients must be referred to the center by the city’s homeless outreach partners.

The navigation center will be comprised of an expanded tent structure and also include trailers that provide an administrative office, a dining room and common area and laundry facilities. Trailers for restrooms and showers also will be installed.

The large facility, which has an estimated first-year cost of $2.6 million, is expected to meet U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter’s ruling that 60% of the current homeless population — which was estimated at 289 people in Huntington Beach in 2019 — have shelter beds before the city can enforce anti-camping, anti-loitering ordinances.

Huntington Beach has been trying to seriously curb homelessness issues since at least late 2013, City Manager Oliver Chi said in an Aug. 3 presentation to the City Council, and has considered 35 different shelter sites over the last several years.

Last year, the city authorized buying an 11,200-square foot structure in an industrial area at 15311 Pipeline Lane. The city sold the property at a loss in October 2019 after residents and businesses sued the city, saying the property was only for industrial use.

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