Why Not in Newport?

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Homelessness in Newport Beach

The executive director of Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council believes we should do more to address homelessness.

By Jim de Boom

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For many years, Newport Beach has had a reputation of moving the homeless found within its boundaries to Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach or Santa Ana—avoiding the problem. Fortunately, the attitude among city officials, law enforcement and the faith community has become more supportive of the homeless in recent years, but there is still  much to be done to address homelessness. Some believe a shelter should be built in Newport; one thing is certain—as long as there are homeless in this city, we need to support efforts and resources to help them and work together to eliminate the problem.

According to Kimberly Brandt, community development director for the city, the 2009 homeless census counted 80 homeless people. A new count in Orange County was taken at the end of January 2013 by more than 900 volunteers. Although unavailable at the time of this writing, I suspect the count is much higher since the start of the 2009 recession, and the feedback I receive from our faith communities supports this assumption.

While there continues to be a deep-rooted stigma attached to homelessness, there are a variety of reasons for it, including mental illness, alcoholism and loss of employment. The Newport Beach Police Department has been working on a multi-pronged approach, which includes education, prevention, partnership and at times, enforcement, according to City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle. NBPD officers have attended formal training on the subject of dealing with the mentally ill and homeless, and the department is also working with private, government and nonprofit organizations to help provide resources to those who are homeless. The organizations include the OC Health Care Agency, OC Evaluation and Treatment Services, the Psychological Evaluation Team from College Hospital and Centralized Assessment Team from the county. The department has also worked with the California Department of Veteran Affairs, Laguna Beach homeless shelter, Share Our Selves in Costa Mesa and the armories in Santa Ana and Fullerton.

NBPD has placed numerous individuals into shelters, including Charle Street alcohol recovery home. Additionally, in the event that a person does not have the resources to return home or to a better place of their choice, our officers have the ability to give “money to get home” and have done so. They have also provided temporary hotel stays.

The city already allocates the maximum amount allowable of its Community Development Block Grant funds to agencies that provide a range of services, including Age Well Senior Services, Families Forward, Human Options, Serving People in Need, Share Our Selves and Youth Employment Service of the Harbor Area. Although much is being done to help those in need, the agencies, such as the Laguna Beach Shelter, to which the NBPD refers the homeless, need funding from the city to continue their good work.

The Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council has focused on services available to the homeless and hungry, bringing together the agency resources with members of our community (see more at nmiinterfaith.org). We have many organizations working to address the problem of homelessness, but when we come together, we are the strongest.

You and I can help with the homeless and hungry issue, not just in November and December, but year-round by supporting their efforts. Instead of giving money to the panhandler on the street corner, donate to organizations such as Family Promise of Orange County, Friendship Shelter, Mercy House Living Centers, Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, U.S. Vets and other nonprofits. Let the homeless know that you invest in services to the homeless and encourage them to use services you help fund. NBM

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