EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this story was published, the city of Tustin did open a temporary shelter on March 18, 2019. For more information on how the city is addressing homelessness, please visit here. (November 5, 2020)

The City of Tustin has less than 60 days to have a temporary homeless shelter up and running, or else law enforcement officers will not be able to cite or arrest people for camping in public areas.

Faced with these options, the Tustin City Council voted unanimously to locate its temporary shelter on the corner of Red Hill Avenue and Valencia Avenue. That location is about 500 feet away from an elementary school.

In order to drop off or pick up students, parents must pass by the shelter. There is no other way in or out of the area. The city’s decision has drawn the ire of many Tustin Legacy neighborhood residents.

“It’s really to let the city know that we’re just unhappy with the way they’re handling some decisions as it relates to our community and our children,” said Beejal Northrup, a mother of three children.

Northrup says she’s not a protest kind of person, but the city’s decision made her and hundreds of her neighbors want to speak out against the plan to bring a shelter so close to their homes and childrens’ school.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved $25 million in Mental Health Services Act funding (MHSA) for permanent supportive housing. The board also approved three new housing projects in Central Orange County. One of the locations is in the Tustin Legacy neighborhood on Tustin Ranch Road and Warner Avenue.

Tustin is planning to partner with the Jamboree Housing Corporation to build the housing development with 54 affordable housing units and 59 units saved for the chronically homeless with special needs.

This development would be on top of a temporary homeless shelter ordered to house 50-beds and one of the city of Santa Ana’s 200-bed shelters, which sits on the border of the two cities. In 2017, the county counted 69 homeless people living on the streets of Tustin.

“The city is proposing another 60 beds to open up right next to our neighborhood. Right here. So all together, these beds there’s going to be over 700 beds within a one-mile square radius of our children, our parks, our community, our homes, our school. Nobody had any idea. We all feel just blindsided,” said Northrup.

Residents in the Tustin Legacy neighborhood say they are concerned with the possibility that a criminal element could potentially be concealed under the umbrella of the homeless population. They say they are not against helping homeless individuals. They just want to see other parts of Tustin being a part of the solution too.

Northrup and her neighbors formed a group called “Protect Tustin Kids” and they’re serious about it. They made a website, wrote a petition, and started protesting before city council meetings.

“We spent a lot of time making people aware by passing out flyers and making sure everybody was sort of informed to what the city’s plans are,” said Northrup.

More than a 100 residents showed up to the council meeting on November 20 and more than a dozen spoke during public comment, including Beejal before the council discussed the housing development.

To everyone’s surprise, the city manager postponed the vote to approve the housing development to late January 2019 so the city will have more time to talk with the developer and community.