In the News

A plan for housing and public safety

OC Register | September 10, 2017

By Kris Murray

Anaheim residents, businesses, visitors and those across Southern California are watching an escalating homeless crisis dramatically affect neighborhoods, parks and other public recreation areas.

Elected officials and county and city staff are hearing from residents and advocates alike from all over the region. And those voices are growing louder.

At our last City Council meeting, I called for a complete package of services and actions, Operation Home Safe, to come back on Tuesday, Sept. 12, for council approval. In addition, I called for the council to declare a citywide state of emergency in Anaheim to activate a wide variety of additional services. If approved, Operation Home Safe will authorize:

• Support for comprehensive assistance and shelter for those living in the riverbed or in the public right-of-way.

• Aid to be provided for those who desire assistance, with the goal of helping every homeless individual find permanent housing or shelter and ongoing service assistance, depending on their individual needs.

• Fair warning to be given upon a noticed deadline, after which the city will enforce an immediate cease-and-desist order with the support of local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and security of the riverbed and public spaces for all residents.

• Enforcement to be ongoing and to be conducted by working collaboratively with the county and neighboring cities to end criminal activity in the riverbed and public spaces that border the city.

Operation Home Safe will build on Anaheim’s successful collaboration with the County of Orange; our nonprofit partner, City Net; neighboring cities; social service agencies; local volunteers; and faith-based, nonprofit and business groups to provide comprehensive assistance and shelter for the homeless.

It will also authorize the concurrent expansion of local enforcement of the riverbed and public spaces to eliminate health and safety risks to all Anaheim and county residents.

Our message must be clear: Those who want help will get it. Those who refuse help must leave. Our laws will be enforced. The health and safety of all of our residents will be protected.

As community leaders, we must continue to work together to build housing, find shelter and provide services for those who seek it. We must also prioritize public safety for all residents. Together, we can practice courageous leadership to serve the vulnerable and restore our neighborhoods, parks and public spaces for the benefit of all in our cities.

It is not compassionate to enable people to permanently live in a riverbed or in the shadows of city streets and parks. These are veterans, emancipated minors and families who have had debilitating financial setbacks, while others are struggling with addiction, trauma and life circumstances that most of us can only imagine.

And there are far too many individuals with criminal intent and histories that prey on the homeless and surrounding neighborhoods because these encampments provide them with cover.

In the past year, encampments in and around my city and across the region have grown, and a sense of permanence has taken root. There is ongoing criminal activity, drug use, prostitution and disease that is putting those who live in these encampments and those who live nearby at increasing risk.

The County of Orange is expanding shelters and services, and many cities have been working independently to address increasing demands at the municipal level. With Operation Home Safe, we have an opportunity to bring all of those efforts together in a seamless, cooperative program to act swiftly and effectively to resolve what has quickly become a crisis for all of our communities.

By providing comprehensive and restorative services to the homeless, while simultaneously enforcing all health and safety laws, we can work together to reclaim the Santa Ana River Trail and surrounding neighborhoods for all residents in Anaheim and Orange County. The time for action is now.

Kris Murray is a member of the Anaheim City Council.

View Original Publication: OC Register