Homeless people who use the Alternative Sleeping Location will be getting a new home in Laguna Beach, and it’s all to the good.
By mid-June, as the city gears up for the summer festival season, and the ACT V parking lot will be needed for visitors, if all goes as planned the mobile structure that houses the homeless at night will be sitting in a new location farther up-canyon.
The new site, at 20652 Laguna Canyon Road, a former Verizon telephone facility, will give the homeless and homeless providers a larger area and more services.
The Laguna Relief & Resource Center will also have a new home there. The center is losing its long-standing site at Stan Oaks and activists have been searching for a new spot for more than a year. A proposal to relocate to a two-story building in the Big Bend area was met with opposition by residents who were upset by the prospect that their neighborhood could become “homeless central." Facing heated criticism, the idea was dropped.
The former Verizon site is distant from homes, and buffered from its surroundings by the Bark Park and the city animal shelter. No one lives within a stone’s throw of the site, and it’s not even terribly visible from the road.
The new site will be wholly dedicated to homeless services, and that will mean homeless people won’t have to vacate the sleeping site as early in the morning, which will allow volunteers to bring food to the shelter instead of feeding people at Heisler Park.
This should further reduce the number of unhoused people spending all day in the parks and on beaches, which will be a boost to the city’s visitor-serving businesses this summer.
The new site will be geared to serving people with Laguna ties: either they grew up here, went to school here, or have family in the city; or they have been living on the streets of Laguna Beach for a year. We expect that people from elsewhere needing emergency shelter won’t be turned away, but they will be redirected to services in their own areas.
The problem of providing transportation from downtown Laguna Beach to the more-distant facility has been solved by the purchase of a 15-seat van that will be dedicated to serving the shelter, a very practical acquisition that will have many uses.
By all accounts, the response to the new site has been remarkably positive from all quarters, and this is a testament to the careful planning and groundwork that was laid as this plan came to fruition.
As Mayor Elizabeth Pearson said: “It’s a win-win-win for all."