County purchases facility to house mental health patients, help homeless population

homeless

The building that will house the new mental health facility, which will help serve the homeless population, is located five minutes from Chapman at 265 S. Anita Dr. Photo by Bonnie Cash

After at least 700 homeless people were removed from the Santa Ana riverbed last month, Orange County has purchased a property for a $26 million mental health facility in Orange, about a five-minute drive from Chapman University, to help serve the county’s homeless population.

homeless

The property for the new mental facility will be about a five-minute drive from Chapman.

The 44,500 square foot building, which is across the street from the Santa Ana riverbed on Anita Drive, will open within two years, said Andrew Do, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors Feb. 28. There are currently not enough facilities in the county to house the homeless population and those with mental illnesses, Do said.

We have people who need our help. It’s time for the county to act.”

“We enjoy our lives in this county. If asked to live anywhere else in the world, most of us would say that we’re just fine right here,” Dan Young, former Santa Ana mayor and board member of Mind OC, said at the press conference. “But there is a significant issue within our community. We have people who need our help. It’s time for the county to act.”

In late October, about 30 Chapman students, faculty and Orange residents attended a rally in the Attallah Piazza to advocate for permanent housing for the homeless in the county. They made their way to the Orange City Council meeting, holding signs such as “Being homeless is not a crime,” “Where can they go?” and “No unjust eviction.”

Do agrees that permanent housing is the end goal, adding that the county’s infrastructure for homeless people and those with mental illnesses has been inadequate.

The property is Orange County’s first publicly owned mental health treatment facility and will include programs such as addiction withdrawal services, crisis recovery beds and substance sobering stations, according to a press release. The facility will treat people for up to 90 days, Do said.

The number of unsheltered homeless people in Orange County has increased by nearly 54 percent from 2013 to 2017, according to a government fact sheet. Out of 4,972 total homeless people, 1,248 are in emergency shelters and 960 are in transitional ones.

homeless

Andrew Do, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, said the new mental health facility could treat the homeless and those with mental health issues for up to 90 days. Photo by Bonnie Cash

The property is Orange County’s first publicly owned mental health treatment facility and will include programs such as addiction withdrawal services, crisis recovery beds and substance sobering stations, according to a press release. The facility will treat people for up to 90 days, Do said.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIkdbjadl3s

“The solution is starting here,” Young said. “Two months ago, what if this facility was in place? People could be properly assessed, we could get them to the right places, and there would be permanent supportive housing behind that. That’s the North Star. That’s where we’re going.”

homeless

The property for the mental health faciltiy is across the street from the Santa Ana riverbed, where at least 700 homeless people were removed, as of Feb. 26. Photo courtesy of the Orange County Board of Supervisors

While treatment at the facility is voluntary, people can’t walk in and out of the center freely, Do said; patients must be referred to or transported there. Because of this, he predicts that the facility won’t have a negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods, as there won’t be much foot traffic from patients or their families.

The majority of the funding for the facility will come through Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, Do said. The purchase of the property cost $8 million, while renovations and retrofitting within the next two years will bring the total to about $26 million.

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