Shelter Agreement Shelved

Council Majority Votes Yes In Rejecting Agreement With County of Orange

Strong opposition from East Fullerton residents prompted the Fullerton City Council to narrowly reject a multi-jurisdictional agreement on a proposed homeless shelter on State College Boulevard.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker, along with Mayor Pro Tem Doug Chaffee and Council Member Greg Sebourn voted to decline the agreement while Council Members Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory supported the measure.
The vote essentially stops Orange County from building a 24-hour emergency homeless shelter in a former furniture store on 301 S. State College Blvd., in very close proximity to homes and Commonwealth Elementary School. Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who represents Fullerton on the Board of Supervisors, has championed the site, which the Board approved unanimously in January.
Since then, residents near the site have held meetings and raised concerns about the safety of children and the neighborhood while some homeless advocates spoke in favor of the site.
Before the Tuesday night vote, more than five dozen people spoke on the issue expressing views ranging from opposition to a shelter because of children’s safety to whole-heartedly supporting a shelter at the State College site.
“I refuse to believe that a few council members are unwilling to consider a site—in an industrial zone, not in a residential area,” said resident Fred Johnson.
Speaker Curtis, however, had his support for the proposed State College shelter.
“The shelter would be an opportunity for the community and I think we should step up to the plate and not just do the basic to get by,” he told the audience.
After the public spoke on the issue, Mayor Whitaker stated his opposition to the agreement because it would take away the city’s ability to have a say on a proposed site and wanted the county to look at other suitable locations.
“The only control that we have in the process what we haven’t had up to this point is to reject this agreement,” he said before many in the audience applauded.
Chaffee explained that he was in favor of the shelter on State College, but after thoughtful consideration and visiting the site, he felt that it wasn’t an adequate location because of the underpass construction that would take up to 30 months.
“I want the homeless shelter today and this site’s not going to provide that,” he said to the audience.
He went further and asked Mayor Whitaker to agendize an item for the next meeting that would look at alternate locations for a homeless shelter in Fullerton that he hoped would open as soon as the end of the year.
Council Member Fitzgerald stated her support for the agreement, saying she had faith in the groups that would operate the facility. She took her time to criticize residents’ concerns about safety in and around the proposed shelter, given its close proximity to Commonwealth Elementary.
“There is no basis in reality for the emotional concerns that you have,” she told the audience. “The service provider that’s providing these services to the homeless population, the facilities out there are not flophouses that many people seem to talk about. Otherwise I would never support it.”

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