The City has taken a number of steps to address this very complex issue. City staff and City Net, a contractor that assists with community outreach and case management services, work in collaboration to engage these individuals and connect them with services such as emergency housing, mental and health care, benefits counseling and a variety of other community based programs and services. It is not uncommon for individuals to be resistant to engagement at first. The more successful interventions are built upon a pattern of consistent engagement and building trust so that the individual will be in a position to accept the assistance that will lead to a lasting solution to their homelessness.
The City has a dedicated, full-time police officer and a homeless coordinator who focus on the issue of homelessness. The Homeless Liaison Officer works closely with the County of Orange Health Care Agency's case management staff and City Net to provide homeless outreach services. The uniqueness of each homeless individual's situation requires an individual approach. Due to the fact that each individual's needs are different, our staff works with our homeless individuals on a case-by-case basis.
Recently, the City Council formed a Homeless Task Force comprised of council members and community members who have been given the task of developing a response to homelessness in Newport Beach, along with recommending intermediate and long-term solutions. The Task Force is formulating and reviewing strategies to integrate services, develop a list of community partners willing to provide assistance, review and consider temporary housing solutions and develop metrics to monitor the reduction of homelessness. Task Force meetings are open to the public. If you are interested in the issue of homelessness, please consider attending. The meetings are scheduled on the third Tuesdays of the month at 4 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 100 Civic Center Drive. Sign up for e-notifications here.
It is important to understand that often times, individuals are resistant to seeing case workers or our police officers assigned to work with those experiencing homelessness. Multiple visits may be required before we gain someone's trust to even have them start talking with us to work on solutions.That is why in addition to our full-time officer, the City has contracted with City Net to provide homeless outreach services. Street outreach services seeks to connect unsheltered homeless individuals with emergency shelter, housing, critical services, healthcare or urgent, non-facility-based care.
The Laws are Complex
Cities and countries are obligated to follow state laws, federal laws and court rulings that define the parameters of what can and cannot be done when addressing the impacts of homelessness. Newport Beach, along with the rest of the Orange County cities, must follow and comply with those laws and court rulings.
In September 2018, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Martin v. City of Boise that the Eighth Amendment precludes the enforcement of laws that prohibit sleeping outdoors, on public property, when no alternative shelter is available for those experiencing homelessness. The Ninth Circuit held that, as long as there is no option for sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize individuals experiencing homelessness from sleeping outdoors on public property. As a result, the federal judge overseeing Orange County's homeless issues was asked to block cities from enforcing anti-camping laws if the city does not have an adequate, alternative sleeping location for these individuals experiencing homelessness, such as a shelter bed or other housing. The City has no such facilities at this time. The City, along with financing and development partners and social service providers, opened a 12-unit permanent supportive housing community in 2018 for veterans and low-income seniors. This community is currently at capacity.
The City Council began exploring the possibility of establishing a homeless shelter within the City to comply with the ruling of the Ninth Circuit. On September 4, 2019, the City Council considered three locations that could be developed into a homeless shelter: 4200 Campus Drive, 825 West Newport Street and 6302 West Coast Highway. The City Council directed staff to negotiate with the owners at 4200 Campus Drive. The Council did not provide direction on the 825 West Newport Street location. The City Council also removed the 6302 West Coast Highway property from consideration, in addition to all the properties located within the Coastal Zone. The City Council also directed staff to consider 592 Superior Avenue (the City's Corporation Yard) as a possible location. Any additional sites would need to be brought forward for consideration as an item at a City Council meeting.