State Action Needed to Control Teen Rehab Group Homes

Thank you to the residents of Orange Park Acres who invited me and other candidates to a panel discussion yesterday on problems associated with the profusion of minor treatment group homes in the community.

There are now 9 teen rehabs operating within the 1.4 square miles of Orange Park Acres, an equestrian-oriented residential community with no sidewalks or street lights. Two more groups homes are pending.

Location of proliferating teen rehab group homes in Orange Park Acres

If approved, there would be 11 group homes in this small community, all operated by the same owner, housing up to 66 children. At a cost of more than $1,000 per child per day, these 11 group homes could generate revenue of about $2 million per month to the owner.

Since 2017, law enforcement has responded to more than 200 emergency calls connected to these teen rehab group homes in Orange Park Acres, including more than 40 reports involving “missing juveniles” or runaways, and 17 calls for minors posing a danger to themselves or others.

Teens running away from the group homes in Orange Park Acres have been found hiding in foliage, behind garages, wandering at night in dark and dangerous streets, neighbors said. Some have appeared on front porches at the crack of dawn, pleading with neighbors to help them escape or call their parents.

The residents have had enough — but their efforts to get government to control the expansion of the group homes, or to solve the problems caused by their chronic mismanagement, have been frustrating at best.

In my view, solving these problems requires state legislation and enforcement, and the commitment of state resources. But our current local state legislators in this district have stood on the sidelines of decision-making in Sacramento, failing to bring anything back to our local communities to solve this problem and others.

Our voices have not been heard in the rooms where state decisions are made.

As a result, we’ve been unable to secure the legislation and resources necessary to control the expansion of group rehabs or effectively regulate their operations.

I look forward to working with community members and members of the state legislature to ensure the passage of legislation that effectively regulates the expansion and management of group homes, and that provides Orange Park Acres, and other Orange County community with the resources needed to keep group homes from exploiting their vulnerable teenage patients and negatively changing the character of our neighborhoods.

When I am elected to serve the communities of the 68th Assembly District in the state legislature, you can be sure our local voices will be heard loud and clear in Sacramento!

Irvine Posts New Web Page Detailing the City’s Efforts to Combat Homelessness

The City of Irvine has posted a new web page detailing the City’s efforts to combat homelessness.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I’m proud of what we’ve done.

I’m especially proud of our inclusionary housing requirement that 15 percent of all new residential development be affordable to lower-income households.

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox receiving affordable housing award on behalf of the Irvine Community Land Trust

I’m also proud of the City of Irvine’s establishment and funding of the Irvine Community Land Trust, which I am honored to serve as Chair, dedicated to creating affordable housing.

In 2018, we opened Parc Derian, which brings 80 new units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine. Located in the Irvine Business Complex, Parc Derian is a beautiful multifamily community with a pool, tot lot, private parking, exercise center, computer lab, and onsite resident services.

Also in 2018, we began work on Salerno, a new 80-unit rental community. Like Parc Derian, Salerno will provide permanent affordable housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.

Significantly, in 2018 we began to develop our first homes for ownership with help from a new partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. This new Irvine community, called Chelsea on Native Spring, located north of Irvine Boulevard, will include 68 affordable home for sale to income-eligible veterans, working families, and young professionals.

Homes will be sold to first-time homebuyers who earn up to 120 percent of the area’s medium income. In an area where the median home price is $727,000 and average annual income is around $80,000 for a family of four, many people are priced out of the market and face housing and financial uncertainties while trying to build a life in Irvine. The Chelsea on Native Spring project aims to keep those people in Irvine, especially military veterans, teachers, nurses, and young professionals.  It is expected to begin construction in 2019.

In addition to these new projects, we continued in 2018 to provide quality housing and services to 238 households living at Alegre Apartments and Doria Apartment Homes.

In all, that’s 466 households, and more than a thousand people, who can comfortably live, work and raise families in Irvine directly because of the work of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox and other officials listen to a homeless man at the Santa Ana riverbed.

In fact, over the past 30 years, Irvine has developed more affordable housing for families and individuals at risk of homelessness than any other city in Orange County.

Irvine has also provided over $6.7 million in grant funding to nonprofit organizations for homelessness prevention programs.

I am proud too of our Irvine Police Department’s approach to homelessness, which employs a dedicated team of Mental Health and Homeless Liaison Officers and is characterized by compassion and concern for those suffering from economic hardship, mental illness, and addiction.

The City has established a dedicated email address, outreach@cityofirvine.org, to address homelessness in Irvine. If you know someone in need of services, or if you have a question related to homelessness in Irvine, please contact us.

Irvine has also partnered with several non-profit community organizations — including Families Forward, Second Harvest Food Bank, FOR FAMILIES, Human Options, Second Chance OC, South County Outreach and StandUp for Kids — to help people experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness.

Please read the web page to see all we’re doing.

Of course, more needs to be done to resolve the homelessness crisis and alleviate the human suffering we see around us throughout Orange County.

While I’m proud of all we’ve done in Irvine, I’m also dedicated to doing more.

I’ve traveled to Sacramento to convince our legislators to reform the tax code to make it easier to build affordable housing.

I’ve traveled to San Antonio, Texas, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to see possible solutions in action.

We need more affordable housing and more attainable housing.

We need more mental health services.

Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox and Community Services Commission Chair Lauren Johnson-Norris attending conference at Haven of Hope in San Antonio on helping people suffering homelessness.

We need real regulation and supervision of so-called sober living homes that heartlessly dump untreated addicts into our communities when their money runs out.

No area of the nation has been more adversely impacted by these unregulated and profiteering sober living homes than Orange County.

We need to work with responsible non-profit community and faith organizations to find real solutions to the growing crisis of drug and alcohol abuse.

Homelessness is a both humanitarian crisis and a public health crisis that we can not ignore or simply pretend to legislate out-of-existence. Helping our homeless population will require a concerned, regional, and state-funded approach that both provides safe temporary shelter and effective, humane solutions of the root causes of homelessness.

Let’s working together to achieve these goals and truly resolve the homelessness crisis.