Marjorie Rooney, Tim Johnson, Yuichi Suda, Beryl Smith and I as representatives from Irvine For Everyone met yesterday with Mayor Wagner and some Irvine City staff. We shared the I4E SOS responses (confidential list), comments (19 pages — clearly Irvine cares!), and ideas for solutions. The Mayor was generous, and actively engaged. Clearly, homelessness in the OC is an important issue for him and the City of Irvine.
Here’s our recap:
It was with great honor that Anita Coleman, Beryl Smith, Yuichi Suda, Marjorie Rooney, and Tim Johnson were able to meet with Mayor Wagner as well as Grace Leung (Assistant City Manager), Craig Reem (Director of Public Affairs), and Steve Holtz (Mgr of Neighborhood Services) on Tuesday May 15th representing Irvine 4 Everyone. The goal of the meeting was to let the Mayor know that we were supportive of him and what he is doing as well as express that Irvine is a very caring community. My take aways were as follows:
- Irvine requires affordable housing to be incorporated into new high density developments including low, moderately low, and extremely low income housing however there are no emergency housing options in the city. The City takes pride in the work it does incorporating low income housing for residents.
- The City has recently become aware that the County is working on 3 sites presumably in South County for emergency housing locations. The City does not believe that Irvine is one of those locations because they believe that the County would have reached out to them on it.
- The City is highly concerned about the public safety aspect of emergency shelters.
- The City is highly concerned about funding of emergency shelters and the logistics. They have a budget gap and are worried about the fiscal impact of building and running a shelter.
- The Mayor and the other South County Mayors seem to put things “on hold” with the 3 sites the County is working on.
- The Mayor also was concerned whether having an emergency housing site would be for everyone or just those in Irvine.
- The Mayor seemed to be open to utilizing a small portion of the 100-acre site, but likely would do so only if forced to do so. They do not want to offer it up. The Mayor did not seem to think that the County Board of Supervisors wanted to use the site anymore but instead had other grand plans financially.
I very much enjoyed meeting with Mayor Wagner to discuss our support for bold action regarding homelessness in Irvine. He was generous with his time and took our concerns and ideas seriously. I hope we will see some more leadership from him on this issue in the near future.
I try not to be redundant. . .Tim outlined so well and I honestly don’t know if anything is not captured.
There’s one thing, however, I thought it was worthwhile to note. When Anita was talking about the need to raise the public awareness about people experiencing homelessness (“homeless population”), his body posture changed and turned towards her as if he echoed the sentiment. Also it is noteworthy that he chose to go over the time slot (30 min) in spite of a reminder by his secretary. It is a positive sign. He could have kept it in 30 min and walked us out. He didn’t!
So, I would say that our takeaways are:
- Better than expected
- The Mayor showed interest in what we had to say (and his staff were taking notes with nods more than one occasion)
The Mayor asked the question about what clients Irvine should serve. My response was that was a question of broader policy to be worked out with neighboring jurisdictions and that it would be a part of putting a system together for the whole south county area.
I am encouraged by the Mayor’s openness and desire to learn about the homeless people in the current crisis in the OC. In recent weeks, the Mayor has had a boots on the ground approach; for example, he visited an Illumination Foundation facility (I already knew this because as I’ve gone around learning and investigating I’ve found myself “following” him inadvertently in some instances). He mentioned the amount of medications that have to be managed for one person and how difficult that would be to replicate in a residential setting like Irvine. The phrase “emergency shelters” provokes fear and anxiety among residents and even some homeless advocates don’t like shelters and view them as inhumane. We tried to use the phrase “emergency housing” and envision something different. We did similar with stereotyping of homeless people.
- The Mayor seemed to agree that an education and de-stigmatization campaign about homelessness is needed and could be done in Irvine.
- So. County Mayors have been told that the BoS has a plan; they’re awaiting it.
- The City has an emergency housing plan should they be ordered to provide one.
- The Mayor believes that the County does not want to put emergency housing on the land they own in Irvine, across from the Great Park site, even if only a few acres were to be used for it. The County has other plans for it.
- The Mayor confirmed that the South County Mayors have asked for a state audit of OC money for homelessness and mental health
City is doing a lot in terms of housing. The three major not-for-profits based in Irvine — Families Forward, Illumination Foundation, and Jamboree Housing — work with the homeless from all over the OC. The City’s long-term goal to prevent homelessness means that there are not always statistics to share. Same with using a discreet and inclusive approach (see also Tim’s note). The Mayor listened to our requests for Irvine to provide emergency housing as well as to some of the comments from I4E respondents. In response, he asked us many questions:
What is the right thing to do? Should Irvine’s emergency housing, if established, be only for Irvine residents or also for other homeless people in the county? Where will the money for a Regional Assessment Center with all the wraparound services needed and emergency housing come from?
We suggested the right thing to do is innovative, emergency housing in Irvine using a few acres of the county-owned land and tapping county funds as well as other cities, state, local businesses, and foreign investments.
We briefly discussed the need for and creation of an integrated housing campus. City effort needs to be part of a collaborative and region-wide system of homeless person care. There are many models that fit Irvine culture and aesthetics— Century Villages at Cabrillo, Long Beach, Skid Row Housing Trust; Family Resource Centers (such as how Family Promise and Families Forward have long wanted), Bud Clark Commons, Portland. We talked about the people who are homeless or experience housing insecurity and how that contributes to mental illnesses: Families with children; young professionals, college students; disabled; veterans; unaccompanied women; people with substance abuse problems; mentally ill; and chronically homeless. These categories often overlap. A one size fits all public policy approach doesn’t work. The Mayor is keenly aware of all the complexities involved. He is diligently looking for a solution that respects all the people involved, not just the BoS and City of Irvine but the homeless too.
Next steps for Irvine for Everyone:
If you haven’t already done so, please begin to have a conversation about homeless people with your Irvine friends and neighbors. Here are three opportunities:
1.Charity and Service: Donate/serve alongside Yuichi Suda and the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in their Wednesday night @ the Courtyard feeding ministry. You will meet homeless people, the public-private partnerships, and see firsthand the challenges and successes.
If you would like to help people evacuated from the Santa Ana Riverbed and Civic Center, now being housed in motels like the Baymont and others, here’s two groups: 1) Orange County Poverty Alleviation Coalition — sign up for food distribution drives on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, volunteer orientation on Saturdays, donate via FB or Amazon Smile; and 2) Housing is a Human Right Coalition — this group meets every Monday at 7:00 pm, Unitarian Universalist Church, 511 South Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim.
2. Advocacy: Sign on to Irvine for Everyone; Contact Craig Reem (Director, Public Information Office — 949–724–6077 |email@example.com) and ask him to help humanize and de-stigmatize homelessness by providing educational opportunities to meet former/current homeless people. You can come up with your own ideas for how to accomplish this or use this sample: Dear Mr. Reem, Please consider a campaign to de-mystify homelessness. The majority who are suffering this are families because of economic uncertainty, housing shortages; yet, the public in Irvine stigmatize the homeless poor. Research shows that people’s hearts and minds often change when they know formerly homeless people. So, for example, host a conversation with homeless advocate, formerly homeless, and graduate of Irvine-based Illumination Foundation Tim Houchen. This can be a simple educational opportunity via a 10 min presentation at a future city council meeting. The Mayor leads the way! This will help us learn about OC homelessness and model respect for all people. Thank you.
3. Educational and support opportunities: Like Irvine For Everyone Facebook page and join the group, a safe space for Irvine residents to discuss homelessness in the OC and how you can be a part of the solution.
Acknowledgments — Thanks for supporting Irvine for Everyone (I4E SOS). I also owe many others — not for profits, advocates, activists, and prayer warriors — who are working so very hard to end homelessness in the OC. I owe you a ton of thanks and you know who you are.
05/16/2018 — A second paragraph about charity and service opportunities somehow got deleted and that has now been added.
05/16/2018 — This line also got missed and has been added: Financial opportunities for local homeless philanthropy from foreign investments was mentioned.
Originally published on Charis Research