Homeless Task Force provides solutions in final report

COSTA MESA — Solving the city's homeless problem requires the cooperation of other Orange County cities and a mixture of short- and long-term solutions, the Costa Mesa Homeless Task force concluded in its final report.

The challenge is for the city to determine which homeless people are from Costa Mesa and which ones were drawn here by social-service programs and parks, committee members concluded. City Council members have said they want to help Costa Mesans who have fallen on hard times but do not have the resources to help those from other cities.

After determining residency before homelessness,

the task force offers a number of options for Costa Mesa to address street people.

Actions in the short term include educating the homeless about city laws and also enforcing ordinances regarding long-term parking, camping and storing personal items in public places.

Costa Mesa should explore finding storage sites for transients' possessions so they're not stolen or piled up in parks, the report stated.

Working with the county's probation and parole departments, committee members, who met Wednesday, suggested the city open a dialogue with half-way houses to ensure residents don't just fall off the grid and onto the streets, according to the report.

Costa Mesa police should receive additional training in how to deal with the homeless and could consider having an officer dedicated to the population. A dedicated officer, the task force concluded, would build a rapport with the homeless, which would increase cooperation with them.

One of the underlying messages in the task force's response was how police enforce the city's laws. Simply arresting every violator can turn into a conveyor belt of putting them in jail one day with the county letting them out the next.

Costa Mesa should work with the Orange County district attorney's office to increase the prosecution of repeat offenders while steering others toward alternative solutions and, hopefully, a transition into short- or long-term housing.

One of those methods is by giving police some motel vouchers to give to transients as they deem appropriate.

The task force concluded that, ultimately, if you want to lower the homeless population in Costa Mesa, they obviously have to go somewhere.

Be it through city projects, partnerships with nonprofits or local churches, the report concluded that the city should explore what possibilities are out there for long-term housing for the homeless.

"It's a collaborate approach; it's not just one thing that works," Costa Mesa Neighborhood Improvement Manager Muriel Ullman said at the task force meeting.


Twitter: @JosephSerna

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