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Compton still deliberating on solutions for local homeless

COMPTON — The City Council is expected to decide next month on the best method of provide housing and for the city’s homeless population.

Richard Rojas, the city’s director of Community Development, brought the ordinance proposal to the council. 

“The reason we are presenting this for the council’s consideration is to comply with some direction from the state,” Rojas said. 

The department’s proposal regards Chapter 30 of the Municipal Code for supportive and transitional housing and emergency shelters. According to the staff report, the amendments are necessary for the city to comply with the California Senate Bill 2 and secure full certification. 

SB2  became effective January 1, 2008, and requires the general plan housing element “to include a more detailed analysis of needs” for housing the homeless.

The department is proposing new definitions for things like emergency shelter, family, habitable room, supportive housing and transitional housing. 

It also proposes create a new emergency shelter overlay zone that would consist of standards for the development and operation of emergency shelters. 

Rojas also proposed amending regulations for various housing zones as they relate to homeless residents.

According to state law, emergency shelters are year-round for the homeless “providing minimal supportive services onsite that is limited to a maximum occupancy of six months or less.”

The boundaries for the emergency shelter overlay zone in Compton would be Alondra Boulevard on the north, Santa Fe Avenue on the east, Artesia Boulevard on the south and  and Alameda Street on the west. 

Earlier this year, the 2019 county Homeless Count found there were 424 unsheltered homeless persons within Compton. According to Rojas, the overlay zone would provide 2,400 beds overall with shelters having 100 maximum beds. 

Within the emergency shelter, the department is suggesting there be at least 10 square feet of waiting and intake space per bed. 

Following the recommendations of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the length of stay at an emergency shelter in Compton would be limited to no more than 180 days within one calendar year. 

The proposal also recommends having an onsite manager and security guard at all times along with changes in the number of parking spaces, lighting and proximity to other shelters. 

Compton resident Robert Ray felt Rojas didn’t present enough information for the council to decide on the spot. 

“Do we need shelters for the homeless? Yes, we do,” he said. “But you folks need to do a lot more homework. When we’re talking about shelters, I suggest you talk to some experts.” 

Some agreed with Ray’s sentiments and others felt that there should be a “put Compton first” mentality, asking the council to think of their constituents. 

After the council asked several questions on the matter, Mayor Aja Brown was also hesitant in making a decision.

“If we have 400 homeless, then we don’t need 2,400 beds,” Brown said. “So, we need to get a calculation that will accommodate our [homeless] population with, of course, estimating a population growth.”

By the law’s definitions, transitional housing includes supportive services for up to 24 months exclusively for recently homeless persons. The goal is to help them move into permanent housing within a reasonable time. 

Supportive housing has no limit on the length of stay and intends to help those using the housing stay in a stable living situation, maximize their abilities and work in the community, if possible. 

“Based on our research, shelters that have been most successful in surrounding cities have existed in industrial zones,” Rojas said.

The report claims there are no negative fiscal impacts to the general fund in amending the code. But, if the council approved it, the city would be eligible to receive a grant from the state to help with this matter.

“We do not want to be a magnet for homeless [people], we don’t want to be a homelessness regional center and we do not want to be a place where all these resources will congregate … without having appropriate resources,” Brown said.

We need to get a calculation that will accommodate our [homeless] population.”

— Mayor Aja Brown

By Bria Overs

Contributing Writer