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The original item was published from 2/28/2023 2:46:38 PM to 3/1/2023 11:53:21 AM.

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Posted on: February 28, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Mayor Aitken joins other California mayors to advocate for advanced reforms to address homelessness

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (Feb. 28, 2023) — Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken joins mayors from San Jose, San Diego and San Francisco in Sacramento Wednesday to support proposed statewide reforms that would allow Anaheim to better address homelessness and those struggling with mental health disorders.


Mayor Aitken and other mayors are calling on California’s Legislature to adopt a pair of bills that would update our state’s behavioral health system.


Senate bill 43 would enhance court intervention and conservatorship for those unable to provide for their own care and safety while taking into account a person’s full history and background in considering conservatorship.

Senate bill 363 would create a real-time online database of available beds at psychiatric facilities, crisis stabilization units and licensed alcoholism and drug abuse recovery and treatment centers.

“In Anaheim and across California, we must enter the next phase of addressing homelessness,” Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said. “We know that too often mental health disorders keep those on the street from getting the help they need. These cases require earlier intervention, better insight into available treatment and a complete look at someone when they enter our court system. We have made great strides in Anaheim and must keep moving forward with compassion as we address the combined tragedies of mental illness and homelessness in the most challenging cases on our streets. To do anything less is inhumane.”


Aitken and other mayors are visiting the state Capitol as part of the Big City Mayors, a coalition of mayors from California’s 13 largest cities including Anaheim and representing 11 million residents across our state.


The Big City Mayors coalition is cosponsoring the Senate bills along with state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton.


The proposed state reforms would provide additional resources for Anaheim to address the most challenging homelessness cases on our streets.


While a wide range of people can find themselves homeless, in too many cases mental disorders can lead to, prolong and worsen homelessness.


Those struggling with mental health can be among the hardest to reach with offers of shelter, healthcare and other resources. They can also be a source of recurring impact on businesses and neighborhoods.


The proposed legislation would broaden the definition of cases where courts could intervene and bring required help and treatment.


As it is now, someone must be “gravely disabled” beyond a reasonable doubt and unable to provide for their food, clothing and shelter. The proposed updated definition of “gravely disabled” would expand to include a person’s inability to provide for their own personal or medical care and their own self-protection and safety due to their mental or substance use disorder.


The proposal follows 2022’s passage and signing of the state Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment Act, which calls for counties to set up what are known as Care Courts for those struggling with untreated mental illness. 


Care Courts would be able to require treatment and housing for those living in homelessness and struggling with untreated mental illness. Orange County is one of seven pilot counties to implement the program.


The adopted and proposed legislation build on Anaheim’s work to address homelessness, including among those suffering from mental illness. 


While there are still too many people on our streets, the number of people living in homelessness in Anaheim is down 30 percent since 2019 from 694 to about 485. 


Anaheim is a leader among Orange County cities in its efforts to address homelessness.


Here’s an overview of Anaheim’s work:

Daily outreach: Through what’s known as the Community Care Response Team, social workers do daily outreach to those living in homelessness in Anaheim. For the two years through 2022, team social workers helped transition 2,097 people off Anaheim’s streets while making contact with 12,000 people and working with 5,294 people under case management.


Shelter: Working with The Salvation Army, Anaheim offers immediate housing at the Anaheim Emergency Shelter, a 325-bed shelter campus with access to services, case management and long-term housing.


Other shelter: Anaheim also works with nonprofits to provide immediate housing for veterans, abused women, children and families.


Mental health: Anaheim works with Be Well OC, a team of mental health care clinicians who respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis, those seeking drug and alcohol detox and other mental health support services


Supportive housing: Anaheim has 3,880 affordable apartments across the city, including 138 known as permanent supportive housing with services and help for those transitioning out of homelessness. An additional 185 permanent supportive housing apartments are under in planning or under construction.


Access: a special court process involving Anaheim, public defenders and judges to divert early and repeat offenders to treatment, particularly those living in homelessness and struggling with mental illness. Since starting in January, five offenders so far have opted for drug treatment or shelter and services under the Access program.


Volunteer and work experience: Through Better Way Anaheim, those wanting volunteer experience can work in Anaheim parks and on other projects as a step toward returning to the workforce. Through Chrysalis, those recovering from homelessness can work with the California Department of Transportation, Walt Disney Co., Honda Center, Marriott Corp. and others.

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