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What a homeless navigation center means for Whittier

Tuesday was a very important City Council meeting as the Council chose the Salvation Army as the service provider for the establishment and operation of our new homeless navigation center.

In 2018, the Martin v. Boise court decision came down, keeping us from enforcing our anti-camping ordinance and other quality of life laws if we did not have shelter beds for Whittier homeless. With this case, we saw the rise in homeless encampments on the Whittier Blvd Greenbelt, Parnell Park and Leffingwell Ranch Park.

Then we had our point in time homeless count showing about 232 homeless individuals and we decided to become part of the Orange County Catholic Workers litigation. This is the litigation filed where the County of Orange cleared out the homeless encampments along the Santa Ana River. And just two weeks ago we entered into a settlement agreement and agreed to a permanent shelter providing 139 beds.

We went to a Request For Qualifications process in January and four potential providers responded: Illumination Foundation, First Day, Union Station and the Salvation Army. Tuesday night, staff recommended the Salvation Army from some very good proposals, all of whom are experienced and excellent providers of wrap-around services including beds, meals, storage, mental health services, case management, etc.

We chose the Salvation Army as they already have a location in Whittier, maintain a large transitional living center in Santa Fe Springs that can provide meals for the Whittier shelter and are a long-time provider of homeless services in Whittier. I am very excited about what they will bring to Whittier.

Timewise there will be a CEQA analysis and CUP process. Although it will take a number of months, the Council asked to get the navigation center up and running as soon as possible.

So why is this so important? Whittier will be able to further meet the needs of the homeless by providing them beds, meals and services for their individual situations. And we will be able to institute full enforcement of our no camping, curfew and other quality of life city ordinances when the shelter is established. All of this is going to make a huge difference in the homelessness situation here in Whittier!

On Wednesday, we had a Special Council Budget Study Session. With Covid impacts, more information on this critical matter for our City in next week’s column…

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