Group to study city's homeless

COSTA MESA — The city is looking into what it can do to help its chronically homeless residents get back on their feet and curb the negative impacts some are having on the community.

The City Council unanimously approved creating a task force to look at the scope of the current homeless population in Costa Mesa and determine the best way to combat it with immediate and long-term solutions that will be recommended to the council.

"This is a big problem to get our arms around, but at least we're getting started," Councilwoman Wendy Leece said.

The number of chronically homeless in Lions Park, and other parts of the city, has increased creating significant negative impacts in those areas, Asst. City Manager Tom Hatch said.

The increase in the population has created problems for community and athletic groups and anyone visiting the park, Hatch said.

The city had faced issues with the chronically homeless urinating or defecating in the park, drinking alcohol and doing drugs, fighting, bathing in fountains or restrooms, and the mentally unstable portion of the population harassing and intimidating those using the public space, according to the staff report.

One of the task force's missions will be studying the effects the population is creating, Hatch said.

The task force will be made up of members from the Planning, Parks and Recreation and Redevelopment and Residential Rehabilitation commissions, Share Our Selves, two local churches, and various community members and local service providers.

The public will also be encouraged to attend and participate in task force meetings.

Tim Brown, a former Lake Elsinore resident who came to Costa Mesa to become homeless, said at the meeting that the homeless population needs someone to have their backs. Brown said he isn't sure that need will be addressed.

"It's hard to see the condition they're living in and understand how they could be and how they survive sometimes…but they do need a voice," he said. "They need an advocate — someone who rallies for them."

The task force could be up and running in about a month, and it is expected to take about six to nine months before recommendations can be made to the council, Hatch said.

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