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Homeless Task Force develops recommendations

Emphasis placed on Costa Mesa does its 'fair share' without taking on burdens of a regionwide problem.

October 20, 2011|By Lauren Williams

COSTA MESA — The Homeless Task Force (HTF) has created a tentative set of ordinances and services that it will recommend to the City Council early next year.

The draft of suggestions were ironed out in a special five-hour meeting Saturday, as well as in the regularly scheduled meeting at the police station Wednesday.

Emphasis was placed on the city doing its "fair share" in addressing the Costa Mesa homeless population — a theme the group has revisited in many of its sessions — without taking on the burdens of a regionwide problem.

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The idea is to create solutions that target Costa Mesa's homeless population rather than provide services that would attract people from other cities.

"The primary responsibility of local government must be balanced against the needs of local and regional homeless," the first goal established by the group reads. "Therefore, an effective homeless strategy must first recognize it cannot solve all issues related to homelessness, and that there are insufficient resources to address the needs of those at risk of becoming homeless and those already homeless."

Other suggestions include the creation of a smaller homeless task force to address unforeseen issues that may arise as suggestions are implemented, and the reactivation of the motel task force to work with deteriorating motels.

Under the suggestions, police would be given some discretion as to whether a homeless person would qualify for services, including possible motel vouchers.

On the stick side of the carrot-and-stick approach the group is suggesting are ordinances that would curb camping in city parks, limit food sharing in public spaces and expand a ban on smoking in outdoor city facilities.

During the Wednesday HTF meeting, members discussed at length the possibility that the suggested implementation of ordinances and services would be more costly than doing nothing at all. Some members pointed out the hidden costs of homelessness on the city, and federal and state moneys that would be attracted to the city to help fund projects.

It was also clarified that the task force is not suggesting the creation of a shelter.

A handful of people living on the streets came to the meeting to voice concerns about limits on storage of items. The task force clarified that public storage areas would be made available.

All HTF meeting documents are available online, including the proposed measures being considered to present to the council.

The group is set to make a progress presentation Nov. 15 before the council, and will meet again in January before making its final recommendations in February.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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