This March, the city of Costa Mesa announced its plan to approve alternative housing for up to 62 homeless people in the community with a temporary shelter, and there are plans to create a more permanent solution by the end of the year. City officials hope these facilities will alleviate the effects of homelessness.
Homelessness has been a top concern for the city of Costa Mesa, and Director of Campus Safety Kenton Ferrin said Vanguard is equally concerned about its effects on the school. Two weeks ago, Campus Safety called the Costa Mesa Police Department to have a homeless man arrested after he ignored several warnings that he could not return to campus, Ferrin explained.
Homelessness has been a difficult issue for the city of Costa Mesa to address, as many residents do not want to encourage homeless people’s behavior and lifestyles by giving them shelter. The action taken by the city comes as result of a lawsuit brought about by the Orange County Catholic Workers. The charges stated that cities were punishing people for being homeless without offering any alternative options or shelters.
However, dealing with the problem of homelessness is not as easy as transitional shelters, according to Professor of Sociology Ed Clarke, who has been working on the situation in Costa Mesa since 2007. Clarke’s ongoing work has made him familiar and passionate about the complicated issue.
Even if a homeless person is transitioned into a minimum wage job, there would still remain significant complications, especially if that person struggled from mental or physical health issues as a result of their time being homeless, Clarke explained. Additionally,the cost of living in Costa Mesa would remain even if they became employed full time.
As a members of a Christian university, there is something even bigger driving Vanguard’s campus to seek solutions for homelessness, Clarke explained. Beyond a safe and clean community, faith should prompt action among the community, he said.
“One of the tasks that Christians have been given is to care for the least of these,” Clarke said. “Of all the people in a capitalist society, it is those that lost the competition in capitalism that need the care.”
Though Ferrin has had to deal with student safety and the subsequent removal of homeless persons from campus, he believes it is important not to stereotype or assume someone’s situation just because they do not have a home at night.
“Everyone is homeless for a different reason,” Ferrin said. “If you try and paint everything with a broad brush, it doesn’t work.”
Ferrin explained that it is his job to keep students safe, whether through removing homeless people from campus or installing better lighting in the parking lots.
“It may not be a reality that if you’re homeless that you’re unsafe, but the perception is. It creates an unsafe environment. And if people feel unsafe, that becomes their reality,” Ferrin said.
Both Ferrin and Clarke have their reservations about the success the shelter may find, both in solving homelessness in the short and long term.
“Thinking that this new program is going to change the homeless is probably wishful thinking, because for many of them there is no rehabilitation that is going to be adequate to make them self-supporting,” Clarke said.
The city of Costa Mesa predicts that the shelter will allow police to enforce the city’s anti-encampment ordinance, especially along the Santa Ana River Trail, according to fact sheets published by the city. Additionally, the city hopes giving shelter to the homeless will also make public parks more available to Costa Mesa residents.
“It’s not illegal to be homeless, so you cannot further the degradation of their status and their personhood,” Clarke said.