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History of Addressing Homelessness in Costa Mesa

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Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force

In 2011, the City Council approved the formation of a task force in response to a series of issues related to the homeless population in Lions Park and surrounding areas of the Westside.

The Homeless Task Force documented the issues encountered within the park in its final report, such as alcohol and drug consumption, verbal and physical altercations, and the intimated presence perceived to be associated with homeless individuals.

At the same time, Vanguard University was commissioned to conduct a study designed to quantify both the number of chronic homeless, as well as the services needed.  The assessment determined that there were at least 120 people sleeping on the streets of Costa Mesa during any given evening.  Seventy-four percent of the chronic homeless were male while 31 percent reported mental issues, and 63 percent report alcohol abuse. 

The combination of efforts led to the development of a strategic frame work of priorities based on the 12 months period of education and research conducted by the Homeless Task Force.  A series of nine goals and objectives were adopted:

    1. Define who is a Costa Mesa homeless resident.
    2. Protect the health and safety of Costa Mesa residents through enforcement of civility laws and provisions of alternate storage facility.
    3. Institute proactive problem resolution with regards to high crime/vice motels which cater to transient population, and enforce of local codes and ordinances at problem recovery homes.
    4. Centralize homeless service coordination.
    5. Integrate law enforcement, mental health, and legal strategies in a coordinated approach to homelessness.
    6. Create permanent supportive housing and possible access center.
    7. Review interim housing option.
    8. Develop appropriate metrics system to monitor reduction of homeless.
    9. Promote Lions Parks as a local venue for special events.

Strategy to Address Homelessness

Regardless of the circumstances, according to the Orange County Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, a mission that seeks to end homelessness must provide a road map and a process to support individual success and a rationale to justify modifications to the current service delivery system.

Since the initial study, the City has proactively focused on developing a program for those who have been identified as Costa Mesa homeless residents, and have made strides toward substantially reducing homelessness by:

  • Seeking housing for our residents;
  • Creating a social service registry;
  • Working with a homeless enforcement team consisting of public safety personnel, fire personnel, code enforcement officers, and other city staff;
  • Working with businesses and property owners regarding issues of unwanted persons or criminal activity on commercial properties;
  • Hiring outreach workers to work closely with the homeless; and
  • Coordinating and supporting a network of nonprofit and faith-based organizations that meets weekly to work toward the mutual goals of ending homelessness in Costa Mesa.

Network for Homeless Solutions

The Network for Homeless Solutions, which evolved from the Homeless Task Force, addresses homelessness in Costa Mesa under the jurisdiction of the City Chief Executive Office. 

Based on the findings of the Homeless Task Force, the City has undertaken a collaborative approach to service delivery, which has led to the development of a strategic framework of priorities tailored to Costa Mesa’s specific context. The Network for Homeless Solutions implements a range of strategies, including street outreach, prevention, rehabilitation, housing assistance, and volunteer coordination.

Successes include:

  • Deployment of two community outreach workers who are dedicated to issues exclusively with Costa Mesa homeless residents;
  • Partnerships with several nonprofit and faith-based organizations for coordination of services, resource referral and prioritization of clients;
  • Establishment of a check-in/storage center at The Crossing Church and priority referrals for services to local nonprofit centers such as Mercy House;
  • Constant communication among residents, Costa Mesa Police Department, city staff, and legal counsel regarding referrals, stay away orders, citizen complaints, and homeless service referrals;
  • Establishment of a mentor program which involves outreach to individuals and faith-based organizations to assist city and county staff in housing placements and increase access to other services; and
  • Dedicated Psychiatric Evaluation and Response Team (PERT) personnel who assist the police department by providing on-site mental health and outreach services.