Orange County elected officials were joined by Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday for the unveiling of Fullerton’s Hope (Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement) Center, a first-of-a-kind hub that will approach homelessness in a way no city in California has – until now.
“The HOPE Center is a model of what’s possible when we realize the promise of providing services in the community, where people can heal – and not behind the locked walls of institutions and prisons,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “This is an innovative, smart, local approach that complements the state’s work to disrupt the status quo and deliver results for people struggling on our streets and sidewalks.”
The new HOPE Center will serve as a dispatch base where trained homeless liaison officers and community service providers can be dispatched quickly to people experiencing homelessness across the region. Social workers, mental health workers, police officers and community-based organizations will be sent out depending on what appropriate services are needed.
The HOPE Center will operate as a centralized command hub for the work of the North Orange County Public Safety Collaborative. Established in 2017, the Collaborative brings together cities, law enforcement and community-based organizations across Orange County to address leading public safety issues, with an emphasis on homelessness. Initially comprised of six cities, the Collaborative has expanded its reach to include eleven cities across the North Orange County region, which include the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Orange, Placentia, Stanton, and Yorba Linda.
“Over its first five years of operation and evolution, the North Orange County Public Safety Collaborative has demonstrated its value as a framework and model for addressing homelessness without the need for arrests,” said Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton). “What you see behind me is the next phase of the collaborative. The HOPE Center will service as a critical hub for healthcare workers, community-based organizations, and local law enforcement to coordinate and deliver services under one roof.
“I’m very grateful to Governor Newsom for joining us to commemorate its grand opening, and for his interest in assessing this model for replication opportunities across the state.”
The newly renovated building with a fresh coat of paint, new plants and a brand-new sign that reads HOPE Center across the front is a passion project inspired by Fullerton Police Chief, Bob Dunn who has been working with the Collaborative since 2019.
It was through the join efforts of the Collaborative that Dunn began to witness how joining forces – public safety with social service programs—real progress could happen.
In October 2020, Dunn in partnership with Buena Park’s Police Chief at the time Corey Sianez, began to put together the concept for the HOPE Center as funding for the Collaborative began to loom.
“We didn’t know if we were going to get funded again, so I started to think of ways we could keep the collaboration process going with other police departments and CBOs. This was the idea behind the HOPE Center,” Dunn said. “We all enjoyed working together and I didn’t want to see that go away if we didn’t get the funding from the state.”
In 2021, Senator Newman was able to secure an additional $7.8 million included in California’s Budget Act of 2021 which allowed the Collaborative to sustain itself for another year, while also giving it the funds needed to expand and evolve. Since then, the Collaborative has received an additional $15.8 million from the state, $5 million from the federal government and $500,000 from the County of Orange.
Federal officials also took note of the Collaborative’s innovative approach to solving challenging social issues and secured an additional $5 million.
“We need to own this issue (of homelessness), we can’t turn this overnight, we can’t turn decades of neglect overnight,” said Newsom. “I’m extraordinarily optimistic about novel programs like this that are all about data, all about outcomes and all about creating platforms. I support program like this where they are creating platforms for engagement –cities are working with the county; nonprofits are working with law enforcement and people are taking responsibility and we are seeing results.”Central to the Collaborative’s work is the use of Outreach Grid, a mobile platform and smartphone application built to collect and share information on unhoused individuals, make referrals, track progress and even instantly book beds in local shelters.
Through the use of this state-of-the-art technology, critical data is collected to ensure that those in need are connected to housing and resources at the time and place they need them. In Orange County and across the state, the process of finding a shelter with available beds used to take days or even weeks, but using Outreach Grid, service providers in the region can help find shelter for those seeking housing in less than 15 minutes. With the opening of the HOPE Center, this technology will be deployed on a larger scale further proving its potential to address the complex challenges that accompany homelessness.
“It’s incredibly meaningful for me able to be here with my colleagues and Governor Newsom, who has led the way creating collaborative solutions to tackle homelessness here in California. And Senator Newman is deserving of special recognition here for being both the brains and machine behind the HOPE Center and Collaborative, in particular” said Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana). “I’ve had the privilege of working with both of these men and many of their partners on the establishment of CARE Courts – a new framework to get people with mental health and substance use disorders the support and care they need. HOPE Center fits directly into that model by providing clinically prescribed, individualized interventions with supportive services for this same complex population. It’s an absolute joy to see these pieces coming together to better serve one of our most vulnerable communities.”