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Mayor Katrina Foley and new council took the lead on addressing homelessness in Costa Mesa

Mayor Katrina Foley and new council took the lead on addressing homelessness in Costa Mesa
Flanked by Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, U.S. District Judge David Carter, center, speaks at a ceremony in April marking the official opening of Costa Mesa s new homeless shelter at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene. (Photo by Luke Money)

I lived in Costa Mesa for several years before recently moving to Newport Beach, and I have read “Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley is the best candidate for state Senate” (June 10). I was surprised that more details weren’t provided in the letter about Mayor Foley’s remarkable leadership and the City Council and staff’s efforts to establish Costa Mesa’s new 50-bed homeless shelter.

I was surprised because of the positive change in attitude and approach toward the homeless from previous council majorities, the importance and magnitude of the work done to establish the shelter, and that addressing homelessness is a key priority in Foley’s run for state Senate District 37 in 2020.

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Previous City Councils failed to address the issue. Instead they just kept moving people on the streets and in our parks from one place to another as the homeless crisis worsened. Foley’s first priority as Costa Mesa’s directly elected mayor was to change the city’s approach to resolving homelessness. Her must do attitude resulted in helping the homeless with shelter and services, including job training and placement, mental health assessments, health and dental care, substance-abuse treatment, re-connections to family and connections to permanent housing.

Discussion about opening a shelter started when, due to public safety concerns, Costa Mesa attempted to enforce its anti-encampment ordinance along the Santa Ana River trail and was sued. To avoid further litigation, the court required Costa Mesa to provide 62 shelter beds in order to again enforce the city’s anti-camping, loitering and trespassing laws. Although 12 crisis stabilization beds at College Hospital for mental health and medical treatment were approved, 50 more shelter beds were needed.

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The previous council spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting the lawsuit. After the election, under Foley’s leadership, the city immediately settled the case and planned for solutions.

On April 5 the 50-bed temporary bridge shelter at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene on Anaheim Avenue opened. The city’s short-term plan required identifying and contracting with a site, and upgrading the premises, including security fencing, adding lighting and modular trailers for restrooms, storage, and space for shelter beds, and establishing 24-hour security and neighborhood management covering a half-mile radius to avoid any negative impact on nearby neighborhoods, and importantly, securing operational help from city outreach staff and staff from Mercy House.

More than 600 volunteers are already helping at the shelter, including the Carpenters Union that provided skilled workers to assist with some of the upgrades. According to the acting city manager, all of it was accomplished within 40 days of council approval.

Foley also helped obtain private donations and partnerships with other agencies to fund some of the construction. The improvement to the neighborhood around Lions Park is dramatic. Now families can again enjoy the park.

The current long-term solution involves a permanent shelter in the city’s northeast portion near John Wayne Airport. Once that site opens in about 10 months, Lighthouse is to operate as a shuttle location for client transport and some city community outreach workers are to remain to conduct shelter intake. The secure, reservation-only model of operation of the temporary and long-term sites prevents loitering around the shelter location.

Foley’s leadership has created a win-win situation because people are off the streets and are receiving help to find permanent housing. As a result, it is clear to me that Foley is the right candidate for Senate District 37 and to continue her efforts to address the important issue of homelessness.

Susan Meyer

Newport Beach

Variance would allow too much height in the Heights

On May 23, 2019, the city of Newport Beach received almost 100 signed petitions against a height variance in Newport Heights/Cliff Haven. Despite the chorus of disapproval from the surrounding residents, the Planning Commission passed the variance with four yes votes and two commissioners abstaining. Community activist Jean Watt of Still Protecting Our Newport is appealing this variance on the basis that it meets the findings as a “hardship variance.”

After the meeting, a few members of the community met with the applicant and it was stated that they would forgo the variance, if the community paid for their consultant and the Planning Commission fees. Absorbing these costs proves that there is a price for everything, and that this appeal demonstrates how superficial the need for these variances are and why they should be repealed.

Peggy V. Palmer

Newport Beach

Teams can come together on housing

USC football coach Clay Helton and his wife, Angela, recently attended a luncheon hosted by WISEPlace, the only nonprofit organization in Orange County that provides housing for unaccompanied homeless women.

WISEPlace has been helping women for more than 30 years. When I heard Helton talk about “tackling homelessness,” a light went off. What if coaches from the Rams, Chargers, UCLA, San Diego State and every community college and high school program in Southern California came together to “tackle homelessness?” I could see the Dodgers, Angels, Padres and every baseball team from Little League to Cal State Fullerton to the majors pitching in the “strike out homelessness.” Ditto for “slam dunking homelessness” with the Lakers, Clippers, Sparks and all the terrific basketball programs from high school to the pros. It not only would capture headlines, I’m guessing their collective work would put a huge dent in the problem every city in the region faces today.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

How to get published: Email us at john.canalis@latimes.com. All correspondence must include full name, hometown and phone number (for verification purposes). The Pilot reserves the right to edit all submissions for clarity and length.

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