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Costa Mesa council to consider hiring Mercy House to operate local homeless shelter

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The Costa Mesa City Council will consider Tuesday whether to hire Mercy House Living Centers to operate a temporary 50-bed homeless shelter at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene, pictured.
(File Photo)

Costa Mesa City Council members will discuss Tuesday whether to hire Mercy House Living Centers to operate the city’s planned homeless shelter.

Under the proposed agreement, the city would pay the Santa Ana-based nonprofit up to $1.457 million annually to run the temporary 50-bed “bridge shelter” planned for Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene at 1885 Anaheim Ave.

The shelter, which the city hopes to have ready by April, would be open until a longer-term site is secured and developed. Should the council approve, Mercy House also would operate that facility.

According to a staff report with Tuesday’s council agenda, Mercy House is an attractive option because it manages another shelter — Bridges at Kraemer Place in Anaheim — that closely mirrors the kind of “highly secure, reservation-based, transportation-only facility” that Costa Mesa wants to open.

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“Mercy House has been in operation for nearly 30 years and has an established history of service in Costa Mesa that staff believes to be advantageous toward meeting the needs and demands of the city,” the report states.

City officials have said it’s essential to get a shelter running as soon as possible to comply with direction from U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is presiding in a lawsuit filed against Orange County and the cities of Costa Mesa, Anaheim and Orange on behalf of homeless people cleared from a former encampment along the Santa Ana River. Doing so could allow the city to resume enforcing its anti-camping laws for the first time in months.

Carter has called for cities to develop enough transitional and emergency beds to serve 60% of the unsheltered people tallied during a 2017 countywide count. That effort documented 103 unsheltered homeless people in Costa Mesa — giving the city a target of 62 beds.

Last month, the council approved working withLighthouse Church to improve and expand its existing homeless check-in center and inclement-weather refuge to serve as a “bridge shelter.”

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Admittance to the shelter would be reservation-based, with no walk-ups allowed. The city also proposes to install new fencing and lighting, hire 24-hour security and conduct regular patrols in the area.

The new shelter would account for 50 of Costa Mesa’s needed beds. The 12 others, available to people suffering a mental health crisis, would be provided through a partnership with College Hospital, an acute-care facility at 301 Victoria St.

Eventually, the Lighthouse location would give way to a more permanent facility. City officials are searching for a suitable long-term site and have focused on the commercial and industrial area near John Wayne Airport.

“With the addition of city community outreach worker staff to provide bridge shelter client case management, staff believes that clients will receive the highest quality of service while working on their housing plan[s] to achieve the goal of entering into permanent supportive housing in a safe and secure facility,” the city staff report states.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 W. 19th St.


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