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Homeless Task Force readies goals

To tackle the problems, advisers propose changing city codes, addressing motel issues.

September 26, 2011|By Lauren Williams

COSTA MESA — The city's Homeless Task Force plans to present the public on Oct. 15 with a list of seven proposed goals that address homelessness.

Once formalized, the recommendations could eventually go to the City Council and become part of a far-reaching plan to address homelessness and related social problems citywide.

"Volunteer Task Force members have spent hundreds of hours trying to figure out how to reduce our homeless population … " said Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who serves on the Homeless Task Force, in an email.

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Among the suggestions up for public review are creating a committee to address the poor who rely on motels, changing city codes to reduce the number of for-profit recovery homes and centralizing homeless services.

Also suggested are the creation of a daytime facility where the homeless can congregate, purchasing a motel or hotel to transform it into supportive transitional housing, and assigning a "homeless outreach officer" who could diffuse potentially volatile situations.

To go forward, the recommendations would require additional city staffing and funding from the city's Redevelopment Agency, the general fund and from grants.

Throughout recent Task Force meetings there has been an emphasis on creating solutions that reach out to Costa Mesa residents who are homeless, rather than create solutions that reach out to people who are on the streets throughout the county or region.

"We Costa Mesans are compassionate people, but there is a limit," Leece said. "Goal No. 1 is to protect the health and safety of Costa Mesans. Identifying and helping Costa Mesans who are homeless is a priority."

All services that the Homeless Task Force would recommend, and that the city would potentially enact, would go toward people who have an immediate family member in the city, or who have lived in the city for no fewer than 90 days within the past 24 months. Exceptions would be given for those who are "medically compromised," older than 65 and unintentionally homeless.

The Homeless Task Force was established by the City Council in January and is expected to make its formal recommendations — including city ordinances and improvements to services — to the council early next year.

The Homeless Task Force's seven goals

•Enforce "civility laws" and create public improvements

•Address "high crime vice hotels" through code enforcement

•Centralize in-house homeless services

•Integrate law enforcement, mental health and legal strategies

•Create permanent supportive housing and possibly create an access center

•Review interim housing options

•Promote Lions Park as a venue for special events

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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