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Shelter opening a smooth one

City officials, police and organizers are very pleased by the early results of Laguna Beach’s Alternative Sleeping Location (ASL) for homeless people.

The ASL opened Nov. 12 with a capacity crowd of 51 guests, Assistant City Manager John Pietig reported.

By the morning of Nov. 13, the encampments at Heisler Park and local beaches had disappeared, as homeless people were made aware of the nighttime shelter by police and informed of the new law prohibiting sleeping at night on public property.

“I am very pleased at how well the homeless service providers, volunteers, city staff and homeless persons have cooperated to make the opening of the alternative sleeping location a success,” Pietig said. “The beaches and parks have remained free of encampments since the facility opened.”

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The nightly tally of homeless seeking a place a spend to the night hit a low of 40 on Nov. 13, and as of Monday had climbed to 49, according to statistics provided to the City Council on Tuesday by Dawn Price, executive director of the Friendship Shelter.

The Friendship Shelter, which operates a transitional program for homeless people, has taken a leading role in operating the nightly bed-down.

Price said Wednesday she is delighted by the response of homeless people to the shelter.

“I can’t imagine the opening going any more smoothly than it has. The staff have been terrific, and the clients themselves are pitching in with chores.

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“We have had wonderful cooperation from the city, from our fellow nonprofits who are service providers, and from many volunteers. It’s very gratifying to meet the clients and hear their stories, and it makes us even more committed to permanent, supportive housing as the long-term solution.”

Laguna Beach Police Officer Jason Farris, who works closely with the homeless, said he is also very pleased by the response.

“I’m very happy with the outcome on the beaches and parks,” Farris said. “People are no longer there. Most have moved to the shelter, and some have moved on, out of Laguna Beach.”

Farris said that so far he has not arrested anyone for violating the anti-sleeping law, but has written some warnings and brought some people to the shelter after encountering them at night in the parks or beaches.

Farris is also supervising the bus transportation to the shelter, which opens at 6 p.m. He said the bus, which leaves from the Bus Depot on Broadway, has been transporting more than 20 to the ASL each night, while others are either walking to the site or getting individual rides.

“Nobody is disappointed [with the shelter],” Farris said. “They [homeless] are happy; they say it’s warm, comfortable and clean. I am pleasantly surprised.”

He added that he has been seeing “new faces” at the ASL, and that some guests say they have come from other Orange County cities to use the nightly shelter.

The shelter will cost the city $165,000 to operate for eight months, Pietig said. Of that, $16,662 will be spent in monthly operating costs.

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Of that, $15,162, goes to the Friendship Shelter, with $1,000 to Mercy House, a Santa Ana-based emergency shelter group, and $500 to the Laguna Resource Center.

The remaining $31,992 goes to leasing the facilities, utilities and supplies.

The shelter at the ACT V lot will have to cease operating during the summer months because of summer festival parking obligations.

The Resource Center has issued a call for volunteers to help staff the center, especially to provide meals. To volunteer, call Ann Richardson at (949) 683-6242.



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