Fountain Valley extends City Net contract amid growing homelessness concerns

The Fountain Valley City Council discusses a one-year extension for City Net.
The Fountain Valley City Council discusses a one-year extension for City Net, a homeless outreach and engagement contractor, during Tuesday’s meeting.
(Andrew Turner)
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Fountain Valley officials have decided to extend a contract with City Net, although not without concerns about the growing visibility of the city’s unhoused population and the effectiveness of the homeless outreach and engagement service provider.

The city established a partnership with City Net in March 2022, seeking to interface with its homeless individuals with a goal of connecting them to the healthcare system and getting them into housing. After some deliberation, the City Council on Tuesday approved a one-year extension for $377,000, renewing the contract through June 2025.

Discussion on the dais painted a picture of mixed results. The vote on the extension passed 4-1, with Councilwoman Kim Constantine dissenting. At one point, Mayor Glenn Grandis asked if the services could continue on a month-to-month basis. He later entertained the possibility of postponing a vote before it became clear the item had majority support.


Constantine railed against the quality of service being provided by City Net, and she also expressed concern about the length of the commitment with the one-year extension up for consideration.

She argued that the expense of more than $1,000 per day was too much for the services being provided. She further asserted that members of the public who tried to reach City Net had been given a phone number at which they were unable to leave a message.

“We’re not arresting our way out of homelessness,” Constantine said. “I do have compassion. I just feel that this is not working. Fountain Valley police, they don’t need to be doing anything with the homeless. … They have their own police work that needs to be done. I’m just not happy.”

The city could receive an additional $124,000 in funding from the California Housing and Community Development Department’s permanent local housing allocation program, per a staff report, to use toward the City Net agreement. The remaining $253,000 would be covered by the general fund. The cost was accounted for in the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, city staffers said.

Councilman Patrick Harper inquired about the time spent on individual interactions with an unhoused person.

“If we are engaging somebody and helping them get a California ID or driver’s license, then we are picking them up, transporting them in our own vehicles, and we’re spending some time with them at the DMV,” said Valerie Carter, a regional program supervisor for City Net. “That … takes some time, but that is one of the things that we do often with our folks because we know that without identification, they are not going to be able to access much at all. … We may take them to a shelter. Shelter intakes take anywhere from an hour to two hours.”

Police Chief Matthew Sheppard said City Net’s operating hours, which are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays, align with those of other service organizations, including the intake periods for the Yale Navigation Center in Santa Ana and the new Central Cities Navigation Center in Garden Grove.

Local officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday for the Central Cities Navigation Center, which will provide shelter beds for Fountain Valley, Garden Grove and Westminster.

June 8, 2024

The Central Cities Navigation Center, a partnership between the cities of Fountain Valley, Garden Grove and Westminster, and the County of Orange, had its grand opening on June 5. It provided Fountain Valley with its initial 13 dedicated shelter beds. City officials stated that eight beds have already been put to use.

Data presented showed an increase in homeless persons contacted during the Point-In-Time Count. Fountain Valley’s total number of unhoused individuals stood at 42 in 2019, then 38 in 2022. There were 114 unsheltered people counted in two nights in January.

The homeless population spike was partially attributed to more thorough reporting due to a rise in volunteers after the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the previous PIT Count in 2022, and the one before that in 2019, you all didn’t have an outreach team that was familiar with the homeless population, as we do now,” Carter said. “... We know that lots of [police] are familiar with the population, but … City Net is able to develop different kinds of relationships where people end up feeling more comfortable to come to us and ask for services, or be more open to receiving services. I think that also has some to do with the increase in numbers for this Point-in-Time Count.”

City officials noted that the Brookhurst Street side of Mile Square Park falls under the jurisdiction of Fountain Valley, while the areas bordered by Warner Avenue, Euclid Street and Edinger Avenue are under the purview of the county.

“I realize solving the homeless problem is going to require a lot of different tools in the toolbox,” Harper said. “I think that having a source that addresses and frees up the sworn officers to spend time with law enforcement and public safety is a valuable thing. … I don’t think it’s the time to turn away from this.”

Councilman Jim Cunneen said the City Net team has “one of the most difficult jobs” in throwing his support behind the item.

Vice Mayor Ted Bui said he hoped to see improvement with the unhoused population with the opening of the Central Cities Navigation Center.

Grandis said he was calling for a town hall meeting in August to get stakeholder input to address the issue of homelessness in the community. He added he would be meeting with Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do to discuss if county funding could supplement efforts being made around the park, which he said he hoped could allow funding to be pushed toward other areas in the city.

“I think we’re not happy with what’s going on,” Grandis said. “It may not be City Net’s fault. I think there’s a lot of frustration amongst our residents and amongst our council. We need to do more, and we need to figure that out.”