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Anaheim set to open emergency shelter in weeks

Anaheim set to open emergency shelter in weeks
The city of Anaheim has been searching for ways to shelter the homeless since an encampment at the Santa Ana River Trail was cleared earlier this year. The city this week decided where to open a temporary shelter and an emergency interim shelter. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The Anaheim City Council approved Thursday a 200-bed emergency homeless shelter with the hope of clearing encampments in city parks and providing refuge for those in need during the winter months.

It will act as an interim shelter for up to 90 days before two temporary homeless shelters open early next year.

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That followed the council’s approval on Monday of $3.9 million to buy a piano store in an industrial area at 3035 La Mesa St. to convert it into a homeless shelter.

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The City Council voted 5-1, with Councilman Stephen Faessel dissenting, to open the interim shelter in an industrial building at 2040 South State College Blvd. Councilwoman Denise Barnes was absent.

While acknowledging the need for the homeless shelter, Faessel objected to its location in his district. He noted that the Bridges at Kraemer Place and La Mesa Street shelters, and the eventual expansion of the Salvation Army, are all located in his district.

“I think District 5 has done more than its share,” Faessel said. “I cannot support this because I have not heard other options.”

The city will pay $600,000 to Visit Anaheim Cares — the nonprofit limb of the Visit Anaheim tourism promoter — for preparing the interim shelter location for habitation. Another $805,000 will be paid to the Orange-based Illumination Foundation to operate the shelter.

The Illumination Foundation will also operate the up to 125-bed La Mesa facility.

The interim shelter will be located in a 15,000-square-foot space inside an empty 75,000-square-foot building. It will include bathrooms, showers, laundry services and areas for pets.

Newly-elected Mayor Harry Sidhu called the interim facility a “Christmas miracle.”

“It breaks my heart to think that hundreds of people will be living in the cold this winter,” Sidhu said Thursday. “I said I wanted my first accomplishment to be getting the homeless off the street.”

The interim shelter is slated for a quick turnaround, expected to open by Dec. 20. City Manager Chris Zapata said the time frame is “aggressive.”

The city of Santa Ana opened a 200-bed temporary homeless shelter last month in 28 days.

Sidhu said the interim shelter will help clear homeless from city parks, particularly Maxwell and La Palma Avenue parks, while two temporary shelters are being prepared.

The Anaheim City Council voted Monday to purchase a piano store on La Mesa Street to use as a temporary homeless shelter.
The Anaheim City Council voted Monday to purchase a piano store on La Mesa Street to use as a temporary homeless shelter. (Courtesy of city of Anaheim)

The La Mesa site, which is near the Bridges shelter, is expected to open in early 2019 and will operate for up to three years.

The current tenant, Piano Empire Megastore, will vacate the 12,500-square-foot site in the next few weeks.

City officials initially looked into a site on La Palma Avenue, but acquiesced to public opposition.

The second shelter is on a 1.7-acre industrial parcel on Lewis Street, south of Ball Road. The Salvation Army of Orange County plans to open that 200-bed facility in January.

The shelters are part of a legal settlement that requires Anaheim to provide 325 beds by early 2019. The agreement reached last month is in response to a lawsuit launched by homeless advocates after the removal of a tent city near Angel Stadium.

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