Plan for homeless shelter evicts San Clemente tenants from their homes

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- New neighbors coming to a Calle Las Bolas community in San Clemente means "So long" for those living in an apartment complex purchased to become a permanent homeless housing facility.

Jonathan Moreno said he and other Vista Del Mar tenants got a letter at the end of April announcing the new owners of this 17-unit property would lease it to Friendship Shelter.

"I'm not against what they're trying to do, but I feel like they didn't come up with a game plan to help us out. It's like, 'Hey we're taking over. Have a nice life,"' Moreno said.

Friendship Shelter Executive Director Dawn Price said the nonprofit will permanently house homeless men and women in these units, making it the third property of its kind for Friendship Shelter in South Orange County.

"This property was for sale. Someone was going to buy it and likely displace these residents. We're trying to do that relocation as thoughtfully and generously as we can."

Price said this means cash, which could go toward moving expenses and rent in a new home.

Monday, signs were out in front of homes along the street. Some people in this community worry about what homeless housing means for their neighborhood.

Marcela Mendoza's concerns were about the behavioral and criminal backgrounds of those who may move in next door to where she's raising her two daughters.

"For me that just brings in people who aren't mindful of their neighbors, mindful of their communities. They're going to bring in issues with them, baggage," Mendoza said.

Price said Orange County has a vetting process for those getting vouchers to live here.

"In terms of things like mental illness and substance use, I would say no more or less so than our neighbors already. I mean we all know people who live in our families, in our neighborhoods, within our communities who struggle with a mental health challenge or with a substance-use challenge. The difference will be that the clients in our program will have supportive services on site."

Moreno, who has lived in this family-friendly beach town just a short walk from the ocean, for more than two decades, said he would need help finding another deal like this one.

"I've looked from here to Irvine and the average is around 17, 18-hundred a month. I don't make that kind of money anymore. I used to work at the nuclear plant, San Onofre Nuclear and that kind of money isn't rolling in that I used to make," Moreno said.

Staff at Friendship Shelter said after some safety upgrades, they hope to open the housing by fall 2019 or at least by the end of the year.
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