MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter — October 18, 2013

The Orange County Civic Center, including the Hall of Administration where my office is located, is in the city of Santa Ana. This area is not an unincorporated island under the jurisdiction of the County.

The nonprofits that feed the homeless here in the Civic Center are not interested in feeding them at other locations. It is convenient to feed the homeless here, because the homeless are here. And the homeless are here because they are fed here. Consequently, the homeless literally receive three square meals a day, as a different nonprofit organization comes here with provisions for every one of the 21 available meal slots. Sometimes there are multiple providers for certain days and meals here in the Ross Street parking lot.

When the Orange County Transportation Authority closed its Bus Station on Santa Ana Boulevard a couple of years ago, the County expressed an interest in acquiring it in order to provide a year-round homeless shelter. The bus shelter is directly across the street from the Hall of Administration. The city of Santa Ana immediately expressed its opposition to this collaborative opportunity.

The city of Santa Ana has been represented on the Commission to End Homelessness, and former Chief of Police and former interim city manager Paul Walters, argued against the bus station as a shelter at our commission meetings, as did the Santa Ana Public Works Director.

I’ve been working on locating and establishing a multiple service center to assist the homeless since becoming a County Supervisor. And I pursued solutions while County Treasurer, as well. The bus shelter is the natural location!

Feeling a frustration about the slowness of the process of establishing a year-round homeless shelter, Supervisor Shawn Nelson identified a satisfactory location in the city of Fullerton, only to have it quashed by strong opposition from nearby residents. It was a valiant attempt, a huge risk of political capital, and a great learning experience. But, it demonstrated once again the difficulty of obtaining a satisfactory location.

In the meantime, the city of Santa Ana approved its SB 2 zoning requirements to establish areas where a year-round shelter could be located, but it did not include the bus shelter. I want to wish the city of Santa Ana well on their efforts. I’m just sorry that they turned down funding from the County to establish a multiple service center in the most logical of locations.

So, I find it quite humorous that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) can wake up one morning and threaten litigation to get the job done. Maybe they could donate their time and energies instead toward a capital campaign? Or a public education campaign?

The ACLU is in litigation against the County on behalf of William Fitzgerald, from the city of Anaheim, to modify how the County addresses belligerent public speakers at Board of Supervisor meetings. The ACLU is appealing its loss in Federal Court. Consequently, I need to be silent on this matter. However, for a tutorial, I am providing direct links to my blog on previous UPDATES regarding this particular topic: https://johnmoorlach.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/moorlach-update-proper-etiquette-december-4-2/, https://johnmoorlach.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/moorlach-update-gadfly-management-december-5/, https://johnmoorlach.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/moorlach-update-aclu-loses-august-29-2012/, https://johnmoorlach.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/moorlach-update-rocky-august-25-2012/, https://johnmoorlach.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/moorlach-update-oc-register-august-23-2012/, https://johnmoorlach.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/moorlach-update-letters-to-the-editor-septemb/, and https://johnmoorlach.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/moorlach-update-sounding-off-september-9-2011/. I would recommend starting with the last link and working your way forward.

The article has an accompanying clip that can be seen at: http://www.voiceofoc.org/countywide/this_just_in/article_7ff42de4-37d0-11e3-99cd-0019bb2963f4.html. Unfortunately, it does not include the conclusion of the program, which provided an excellent interview with fellow Commission to End Homelessness member Jim Palmer, CEO of the Orange County Rescue Mission. However, the show airs again this evening at 7:00 p.m.

ACLU Urges County to Ramp Up Homeless Efforts

By DAVID NAZAR of PBS SoCaL

The American Civil Liberties Union is taking on homelessness in Orange County, saying county leaders are not doing enough to solve some of the systemic issues surrounding the issue.

The group is launching an effort – dubbed Dignity for All – aimed at addressing the civil and human rights issues related to homelessness.

While the typical solution has been to criminalize homelessness – with strict enforcement of trespass and loitering laws – the ACLU says the real crime is not providing a way off the streets.

Orange County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, but is also home to thousands of people living on the street.

Now, the ACLU is carving out a spot in Orange County, trying to advocate for immediate policy change.

"Ultimately we hope to create the political will to prevent and end homelessness here in the county," said ACLU attorney Heather Maria Johnson.

"That would include advocating for policy changes to prevent and end homelessness, such as the expansion of affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, an emergency shelter. It also includes opposing the criminalization of homelessness."

Johnson says Orange County officials have been reactive instead of proactive in trying to find solutions to homelessness.

She acknowledges that there are many leaders in the county who are concerned about this issue, but claims there hasn’t been a concerted effort that’s led to change.

"Many people talk about homelessness issues. The county has created a 10-year plan to address homelessness but so far it hasn’t led to increased shelter or permanent supportive housing," said Johnson.

County Supervisor John Moorlach, meanwhile, takes issue with the ACLU’s claims.

"I would probably beg to differ…we are doing something. It may not be at the speed that you’d like to see, but some of these things are not as easy as you would think they would be," said Moorlach.

"It depends upon how you quantify speed, but we have been working diligently to try to find locations within unincorporated areas and within cities to provide for a year-round homeless shelter."

Moorlach says the Board of Supervisors has been working with local cities to try and get the appropriate zoning change for a homeless shelter.

But he says both city leaders and residents are resisting.

Moorlach also adds that the city government in Santa Ana, where many homeless gather, has been of no help.

"Here in the Civic Center we have an ideal location for a year-round homeless shelter. It is right across the street from my building," said Moorlach.

He’s talking about the old Santa Ana bus terminal, which he says would be perfect for the homeless.

A place that could provide all kinds of services. However:

"The City of Santa Ana did not zone this area as SB2. They put their homeless shelter year-round opportunities well away from here and that was probably unanimous by the seven city council members," said Moorlach.

"Residents are going to have a big say and it’s a political activity to try and find that happy spot. It has to be somewhere in a commercial zone, no residents, no schools, no churches – who knows what, but it’s not easy."

Johnson says it would be easy if the county supervisors and local mayors work with the ACLU to find short-term and long-term solutions.

Because if not, the organization could eventually do what it’s famous for.

"Litigation is definitely an option if other advocacy work doesn’t succeed," said Johnson.

"The county and local governments have resources they can use to address homelessness right now. They may argue they don’t have enough but really this is about prioritizing the need to house people."

Moorlach says the county’s 10-year plan is going "quite well."

"We have four implementation groups. We’ve asked them to work with all the non-profits so we’re getting silos taken down. We’re getting some incredible cooperation with all the providers, and were identifying available beds. We’re working with 2-1-1, which is a phone number you can call if you need temporary housing," said Moorlach.

The ACLU says suing the county is a last resort.

It first wants to work with Orange County and all the local governments on various policy changes – what it calls "constructive alternatives to criminalization."

Ultimately, the ACLU says it’s stepping into this fight to make sure that our political leaders put homelessness on top of their to-do list.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

October 18

1993

The school voucher initiative was enjoying plenty of media attention. It even found the Moorlach household involved. Jodi Wilgoren of the LA Times contacted my wife for her story on the subject, titled “Private (School) Detective : If Prop. 174 Passes, Choosing a School Could Be a Complex Research Project.” This would be our introduction to Jodi Wilgoren, who would initially cover me for the LA Times in my campaign for Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector just a few months later in early 1994. Twenty years later, it is interesting to see what the private school market looked like two decades ago, so I’m providing the piece in full.

Today, enrolling a child in school can be as simple as packing a lunchbox: Get the required shots, grab some sharpened pencils and march down to the nearest campus.

But if the voucher initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot passes, selecting a school could become a complex research project.

Orange County already has 224 private schools ranging from a French-American bicultural program to academics framed in Islamic tradition, and experts expect that number to multiply if vouchers become a reality. Plus, the initiative would virtually erase district boundaries, making the county’s 496 public schools available to all residents.

Supporters of the initiative, Proposition 174, hail choice as the essence of the voucher plan, which would give parents about $2,600 of government money toward tuition at any voucher-redeeming school. But opponents warn that the voucher system would spawn a slew of fly-by-night private schools, and that only parents with the savvy, time and financial wherewithal would be able to sort through the dizzying array of options and find the best school for their children.

Private-school parents who already have gone through the process said selecting schools is a tricky business that takes plenty of time, educational expertise, and more than a touch of luck.

"I’ve checked probably every school in the phone book," said Trina Moorlach of Costa Mesa, whose two school-age children have been in and out of five private schools and now attend Christ Lutheran in Costa Mesa.

"You have to really get in and feel them out to find out what’s available and what’s not," she said. "It just depends on the person and what you’re looking for. Everybody’s different."

And so are each of the schools:

Want a religious education? Today you can pick from 42 Catholic schools, 51 schools of seven other Christian denominations or a host of non-sectarian evangelical institutions. Plus three Jewish schools and Orange Crescent, an Islamic kindergarten through eighth grade facility.

Maybe there’s a particular methodology you admire. Followers of Maria Montessori, the Italian physician who suggested that students proceed at their own pace without grade distinctions, have 26 schools in the county. Six other schools teach the philosophy of Mae Carden, a New York educator who spawned a nationwide network of back-to-basics elementary schools.

If you’ve got extra money to combine with the voucher, there’s Fairmont Private School in Anaheim, where the junior-high tuition is $5,985, plus $750 for supplies. Or Harbor Day in Corona del Mar, pricey at $6,285 a year, but popular: 180 applicants for 44 kindergarten spots last year.

Something more specialized? How about the French-American School in Fountain Valley, a bilingual/bicultural experience. . . . Got a genius? El Dorado School for the Gifted in Orange takes the best and the brightest and offers them a well-rounded program stressing art, music and foreign language.

Or, perhaps, you prefer to educate your children yourself: Join one of the six registered networks of home-school programs that provide curriculum guidelines, tests, field trips and advice. Home school programs with more than 25 students will probably be eligible for vouchers.

Tuition, of course, varies as much as the schools’ philosophies. Catholic elementary schools in Orange County average $1,700 a year while other K-8 schools range from $4,000 to $7,000. Among the cheapest are home-school programs, like the Catholic one in Irvine that costs $175 a year; the most expensive is the Mardan School in Irvine, which serves learning disabled and emotionally disturbed children for a price of $19,000 a year, or $102 a day.

“To make a real decision about these things, you’ve got to put a lot of thought and analysis into it and I don’t think most people are equipped to do that. I don’t mean that critically, but they’re just not," said Charles Turner, who runs three Montessori schools.

"I don’t think that most parents have the interest or the energy to really learn what it is we do," said Turner, who opposes the voucher initiative. "I don’t think most people have the information or the education to delve into (the private-school scene) and make sense out of it."

Many private-school parents started their search with recommendations from friends, neighbors or fellow members of church and community groups. Others, like Moorlach, began with the Yellow Pages, or the county department of education’s 21-page city-by-city roster of private schools.

For Stanley Soto-Smith, a teacher who lives in Westminster and has children in two North County private schools, it was an ad in a parenting magazine that caught his eye. Then, like several other parents interviewed, Soto-Smith visited the schools that seemed interesting. Twice, each.

He talked to administrators, observed classes, watched recess out on the playground, studied curriculum guidelines and checked out the activities programs. He consulted his brother, an elementary-school principal, and did some more reading.

"It takes a lot of time if you want to do it right," Soto-Smith said. "You have to know what you’re looking for, and sometimes that takes a little time. We did a lot of research, and it’s paid off."

If Prop. 174 passes, parents could receive vouchers good for the current school year, though students enrolled in private schools as of Oct. 1, 1991, would not become eligible for vouchers until 1995-96.

Once the parent picks a school, and the student enrolls, the government would send a check within 30 days, and continue sending payments monthly. Students who do not spend the entire $2,600 during a given year could use the excess toward tuition anytime before their 26th birthday.

Of course, students must be accepted before they can enroll. Prestigious prep schools like Harbor Day have tough admissions exams to match their long waiting lists. Other schools, hungry for applicants to fill their classrooms and coffers, are more lenient.

Any school with 25 or more students that does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or teach hatred would qualify for the vouchers.

Voucher opponents warn the initiative would give taxpayer dollars to fanatics setting up makeshift schools in garages; but pro-voucher forces argue that the expanded market will apply the forces of capitalism to education and that only the best schools will survive.

"There’s a kind of built-in consumer factor in the private-school movement that’s just not part of public schools," said Burt Carney, legislative director of the Assn. of Christian Schools International, or ACSI. "Private-school parents have direct impact on their school boards because they’ll walk. They’ll vote with their feet."

Currently 9.6% of schoolchildren statewide, and more than 11% of those in Orange County, are enrolled in private schools.

Analysts say twice as many students would have to attend private schools for the public schools to break even under the voucher plan. But a study released in February warned that there are only 43,000 empty chairs in private school classrooms statewide, so parents might have to struggle for choice spots as entrepreneurs open new schools and the old ones expand.

Educators expect private schools to increase their marketing operations to meet the expanded market if Prop. 174 passes. Some school administrators said they would consider hiking fees–not the full $2,600, but enough to make teachers’ salaries more competitive with the public-school system or to fund capital improvements and expansions.

Though the state requires private schools to register their name, address and enrollment and monitor students’ attendance, there is no universal standard for evaluating the schools and no required tests whose results parents can review to analyze the schools’ success.

Various safety measures are mandated, including earthquake standards for buildings that house 50 or more pupils or have more than one classroom. Teachers are required only to be "capable of teaching," and while certain subjects must be included in the curriculum, no specific courses or number of hours are laid out.

Many Orange County schools, though, go beyond the state requirements, hiring only credentialed teachers and voluntarily seeking accreditation by the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges.

"We are lucky that in the area we are in there are a lot of excellent schools," said George Madanat, a pediatrician whose five children attend Fairmont.

"If you really know what you want and you ask the right questions, it should not be a very difficult decision, especially if you have good referrals from people you trust," said Madanat, who investigated two other schools before settling on Fairmont. "I like it to be a process parents put time into. You should not just send a child to school and go to sleep. I think you get out of it how much you put into it."

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