Yorba Linda is a community with about 65,000 residents. It is located just under 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Yorba Linda is home to the Nixon Presidential Library.

As is the case with many Southern California communities, Yorba Linda has a growing homeless population. This has resulted in an increase in the number of homeless encampments that can be found in the community.

One reason why Yorba Linda runs a risk of an increase in the number of homeless encampments in the community is the tension that exists between some homeless shelters and surrounding neighborhoods.

The Tension Between a Homeless Shelter and the General Public

One of the reasons why homeless encampments persist in Yorba Linda arises from controversies surrounding homeless shelters. In other words, when a homeless shelter is forced to close, its residents oftentimes are left with no alternative but to live on the street and congregate in homeless encampments.

The story of Mercy House illustrates the tension between organizations established to assist homeless individuals and families and neighborhood residents where homeless shelters are opened. The tension between homeless shelters and neighborhood residents oftentimes presents nuanced issues which include understandable concerns on both sides of the debate. In other words, balancing the interests of organizations that exist to assist the homeless and the general public in Yorba Linda can prove complicated and challenging.

When an impasse arises between homeless assistance organizations and the general public, one possible outcome is more homeless people on the street and more homeless encampments in Yorba Linda. This is an outcome no one in the “homelessness debate” desires.

Objection to Yorba Linda Homeless Shelter

Mercy House is a Catholic charity that opened a shelter for the Yorba Linda homeless population at St. Martin’s de Porres Church. When the shelter opened its doors, one person in the neighborhood complained. 

Mercy House is not a shelter that is open seven days a week. Mercy House normally uses National Guard Armories. On those weekends when an Armory is having training exercises, Mercy House relies on area churches to open temporary shelters for a couple of nights. This is the case with the homeless shelter at St. Martin’s de Porres Church. When the objection to the use of the church as a shelter arose, the executive director of Mercy House remarked: “We’ve got real-life human beings sleeping outside like animals. Is it possible for compassion to exceed law for a couple of nights?”

In fact, when the complaint was made about the homeless shelter at the church, the city of Yorba Linda investigated and determined it violated municipal zoning codes. A homeless shelter cannot be located in a residential neighborhood in Yorba Linda.

Despite finding a violation, the city permitted the shelter to stay open during the winter months before its operations would need to cease at the church. The city desired to give Mercy House some breathing room to find an alternate location for this particular shelter program that required the occasional use of a church in a residential neighborhood.

The resident who complained about the presence of the homeless shelter at the church stated that one reason why she didn’t want the shelter in the neighborhood was that “I don’t want people asking me for money when I go to the grocery store.” While she did make this statement, she also pointed out that she has concerns about how the shelter might contribute to crime in the neighborhood.

In fact, she said she witnessed some alarming behavior in the neighborhood. With that said, there was no hard evidence the individual this neighborhood resident observed was necessarily homeless, let alone a client of the Mercy House temporary homeless shelter. The neighbor reported that she saw a naked man, crawling on all fours and reading pornography, near the Santa Ana River.

There have been some crimes within the vicinity of the Mercy House Shelter in Yorba Linda. However, Yorba Linda Police Services have not been able to connect the perpetrators of the crimes to residents of the homeless shelter. As an aside, there is support for the proposition that the presence of a homeless encampment nearly always results in an uptick of criminal activity in a neighborhood, at least to some degree.

Homeless Encampment Cleanup in Yorba Linda

Arguably, a homeless encampment presents a neighborhood with some of the same concerns that exist with a homeless shelter – but also many more. For example, a homeless encampment presents a health risk, not only to encampment residents but to the community at large.

A homeless encampment area becomes contaminated with biohazards like human waste and other materials. These types of biohazards are best remediated through the professional intervention of a homeless encampment cleanup specialist.