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Shelter looking for room to grow

Laguna facility seeks use of city-owned piece of land to permanently house dozens of mentally ill people in need.

November 14, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

Representatives of a Laguna Beach emergency housing shelter are hoping to gain use of city-owned land in Laguna Canyon that could permanently house 40 residents with severe mental health issues.

Friendship Shelter staff have submitted a proposal to the city and are awaiting a response, the shelter's executive director Dawn Price said Monday.

"We're in the conceptual stage, so there's not a lot of details," Price said. "We've said all along, ever since the ASL [Alternative Sleeping Location] opened up in 2009, that the shelter isn't going to solve the problem. The problem is that certain people have mental health challenges that prevent them from earning money. In order to live independently, they need support."

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The ASL, an emergency shelter at 20652 Laguna Canyon Road, houses 45 people nightly. The Friendship Shelter, at 1335 S. Coast Hwy., provides temporary housing, meals and support services such as individualized case management and job training for 32 men and women, according to the shelter's website.

The piece of land being sought is adjacent to the ASL, near the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. It currently provides storage space for items such as lifeguard towers and occasionally functions as a construction staging area, Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson said.

It's a little more than 2 acres, city planner Carolyn Martin wrote in an email.

Shelter staff can provide only certain services under current conditions, which is the reason for pursuing permanent-housing options, according to Price.

"The shelter's main goal isn't housing, it's shelter," Price said. "The emergency part is critical to keeping people safe, but it's not permanent enough for a person to take a risk [such as seeking an education or a new job]."

Friendship Shelter partnered with Irvine-based Jamboree Housing Corp., which develops and builds affordable housing communities, in drawing up the proposal.

Candidates for permanent supportive housing would be people "who can't live successfully in a group setting, who need privacy and work one-on-one to address their issues," Price said.

Orange County has at least two permanent supportive housing facilities: Jackson Aisle in Midway City and Diamond Apartments in Anaheim, Price said.

Jamboree was involved with both facilities, according to the company's list of properties.

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