Santa Ana opens new temporary homeless shelter

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The doors are open at a new temporary 200-bed homeless shelter in Santa Ana.

The city worked with the owner of the building and a contractor to turn the empty warehouse near Red Hill and Warner Road into a full service shelter in less than a month.

"In 28 days, we proved that you can do something like this, and now we're going to be operational tonight," Mayor Miguel Pulido said.

The shelter, dubbed "The Link," will be run by non-profit Mercy House.

People must be referred to the program and walk-ups will not be accepted, officials said.

Officials say wraparound services will be offered, with the goal of getting people into permanent housing.

"What is really unique about this shelter as opposed to others is that we're serving all-comers," said Larry Haynes, the executive director of Mercy House. "We're serving families, single adults as well as couples, which is somewhat innovative."

City leaders said the plan is to operate the shelter for two years while a permanent 600-bed facility is built. The location is still in the works.

The new facility is the result of rulings by federal court judge David Carter demanding all areas of the county do their part to help solve the homelessness crisis.

The mayor said the addition gives the city the ability to begin enforcing laws if people refuse services.

"We can work with the attorneys for homeless and say 'Look, we have a plan,' and now we can enforce the law, which means we won't be the dumping ground for Orange County or beyond," Pulido said.

An attorney for the homeless community says enforcement needs to be strictly on a case-by-case basis.

She also says Santa Ana has taken huge steps and hopes other cities especially in south of the county follow suit.

The contractor on the project is the brother of the owners of the building. He said putting the facility where it is was an easy decision.

"There's a lot of opposition to these things, and I can't quite understand it," contractor Geoffrey Ogulnick said. "They're human beings and they need to be helped, we can't keep dumping them."
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