Santa Ana hopes to open new homeless navigation center in early 2021

Santa Ana is set to work on a new city-funded navigation and recuperative care center for homeless people after a kickoff ceremony at the Carnegie Avenue site on Thursday, Oct. 29.

The 200-bed facility is expected to be ready in early spring and replace The Link shelter that opened as a temporary site in November 2018.

The parking lot gathering of city officials and representatives of homeless services provider Illumination Foundation wasn’t quite a groundbreaking since architects will renovate the two-story industrial building at 1815 Carnegie Ave., rather than raze it and start from scratch. Still, the speeches expressed the optimism of a new beginning for the hundreds of people the facility will serve.

Councilwoman Nelida Mendoza said the city strives for a solution to homelessness that is “dignified, affordable and provides relief.”

Paul Leon, chief executive officer of Illumination Foundation, said he hopes the shelter will open by March.

Santa Ana has the largest population of homeless people in Orange County, estimated at more than 1,700 people, a sore point for years. City officials and residents feel that Santa Ana has taken on a disproportionate role in dealing with a homeless population that comes from all over Orange County.

Plans call for 150 beds, paid for by the city, to be set aside as emergency housing for individuals, couples and families with strong ties to Santa Ana. Cal Optima, the county’s health program for the poor, will foot the bill for another 50 recuperative care beds for people recovering from medical treatment.

The City Council in June approved $4.5 million in one-time costs for the physical improvements and $3.1 million for ongoing annual operational costs – up to $38 million, including inflation, over a 10-year period. Illumination Foundation will manage the new permanent shelter, which will include an on-site community clinic to provide medical, dental and behavioral health care.

Once completed, the site will incorporate features now common at homeless shelters: a personal storage area, a dog run, an outdoor barbecue and smoking areas, bike racks and parking spaces.

Supportive services are planned to help residents transition to housing. The combination of navigation center – providing onsite the services and support to help people find their way to more permanent housing and success – and recuperative care is similar to what Illumination Foundation is providing at the new shelter that opened recently in Fullerton.

The Link, converted from an industrial building on Red Hill Avenue in a speedy 28 days, opened a few months after authorities cleared a large homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River bike trail and another tent city on the Santa Ana Civic Center mall as a 2018 homeless civil rights lawsuit unfolded in federal court.

Originally published by the Illumination Foundation: Source