These are very good questions asked about Alfresco Gardens. The answers will provide a lot of information. Please post your questions below and I'll do my best to answer as they come in.
Q - Is it your expectation the County will run this? Or is a non-profit or City government to run day to day operations?
A - I would like to stay with the project as the executive director if at all possible, either as a government employee, a non-profit or otherwise, but that's TBD.
Q - Who takes on the liability? If it is a County project on City or private property land, does County take on liability?
A - sorry that is also TBD
Every occupant will be expected to sign liability waivers, and liability for an occupant's actions will be his/her responsibility. Like anywhere else, occupants can be charged for crimes if they commit any at AG. I consulted with an attorney on this issue, and as I understood AG would have real estate liability, being responsible for certain accidents as opposed to the liability of shelters, which is considerably higher deeming facilities responsible for everything their clients do and everything that happens to them, including nutrition, medical care, and accidents. There are liability risks everywhere, but the insurance coverage required for real estate is significantly lower than coverage and staffing needed for shelters.
Q - Is there a process for intake? Or can anyone in need of a space come in?
A - Only a thumbprint and a photo are required for entry. However we will check backgrounds as a watchful measure.
There is no need to qualify anyone since we aim to get as many off the streets as possible regardless of their statuses, or stories. This eliminates unnecessary paperwork, and staffing and keeps costs down. They'll get what they pay for, they won't pay much, and won't get much, but their basic human needs will be met. This method is expected to keep costs (for all) down, and avoid overcrowding as it logically affords serviceable individuals to move up from the "less than desirable living conditions".
Q - Is there a time frame for how long someone can stay? Some need a place until they get back on their feet, but as you know others are content to remain in a tent and live cheaply, are we setting up a permanent camp for those who have chosen outdoor living as an alternative lifestyle they want to see legitimized? For the record, so we know where we are at, I have huge issues with that. So do many other taxpayers, who understand helping someone off the streets but resent the idea of permanently housing someone on public land who has chosen an alternative outdoor life. Tough sell for many. If there is a cap on the time, what is that? 2 years? How long to get folks on their feet and into apartments etc.?
A - There is no required time frame.
AG plans to serve as an outdoor living community (very inexpensive real estate rental) designed to help the most difficult cases (service resistant) to assist in terms of their ability to acclimate back into mainstream society. Many people cannot psychologically adjust from being homeless for years and then be housed. This is a very logical way to allow people to acclimate on their own time (natural therapy). AG is designed to prevent homelessness. I.e., as long as the economy remains tragically unfriendly for low income individuals, we can expect the homeless population to continue increasing, and we'll need a place for affected folks to land, and recoup. Housing won't come soon enough, so a permanent place like AG is essential for when there's nowhere affordable to go before permanent damage due to homelessness takes over. We don't know how long housing for everyone will take. In the mean time, there's affordable pet friendly refuge, facilities, and storage at Alfresco Gardens. The focus needs to be on the problem, which is sick, diseased, and dying homeless people on the streets and in our neighborhoods. AG is expected to generate revenue, so there's no need for taxpayers to concern themselves with the fact that a low cost community is outdoors. Anyone with a minimum wage part time job can afford AG, so most occupants can pay their own rent (even if they don't qualify for assistance) and thus increase their chances of obtaining/maintaining employment, to pay rent. At AG they can be considered paying members of society with a mailbox. Few will need financial aid, and the service provider would have the option to set a timeframe, just as is done for shelter. It's expected that the "only receiving basic human needs" concept and "less than ideal lifestyle" will aid in the prevention of overcrowding as well as keep costs down for maintenance. (Essential balance). If taxpayers don't accept a divert method such as AG, we are doomed to continue the homeless plague and watch it increase, unless taxpayers are willing to pay for indefinite housing. In the past many couldn't fulfill their housing obligations. Therefore we can expect to keep seeing a large number of them revolve back onto our streets and neighborhoods. Keep in mind the high volume of unserviceable homeless folks who won't and can't live indoors. When taxpayers agree to put all homeless people in nice comfortable housing will there be a sudden increase of "homeless people"? Would it increase the homeless dilemma instead of solve it? Approximately $299 million was spent to address homelessness in OC by government entities in a 12-month period encompassing 2014/2015 according to Professor David Snow UCI: https://www.unitedwayoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Orange-County-Cost-Study-Homeless-Executive-Summary.pdf Do taxpayers want this to persist while the homeless population continues to rise? This is one of the many reasons it makes financial sense to develop Alfresco Gardens. County dispensed services will be expected to assist some with financing just like they do for shelters, motel vouchers, and other housing, but because of the price many can pay their own rent, and the beauty of Alfresco Gardens is:
- One month in OC's cheapest motel will cover a whole year at Alfresco Gardens.
- One month at a shelter will cover 3 1/2 months at Alfresco Gardens.
And there's no "times up" if an occupant needs to stay.
$5.00 per day without a storage closet.
$6.50 per day with a storage closet.
$9.17 per day for two occupants with storage.
Full maximum capacity with storage = $114.400 per month and $1,372,800. per year.
One per space with storage = $23,200 per month and 278,400 per year.
Q - Along those lines, are (able bodied) campers expected to be looking for work? How is this proven?
A - No.
Q - What are the behaviors permitted within the camp? Are alcohol or drugs permitted? Who enforces this?
A - The focus is on lowering the cost of living by providing a low cost outdoor living community to end and prevent homelessness. An overwhelmingly high percentage of the homeless are drinkers, and we believe that to disallow the legal substances, alcohol, and medical marijuana would result in an empty AG and create unnecessary patrolling/staffing. We are renting real estate. Do motels, and apartments monitor legal substance use?
Since AG is not a twelve step program, we believe such substances should be allowed. AG is a concept which no one else has ever done, and we conceive is therapy in of itself that can generate the seeking of self improvement services. Services will be available in the AG service area, but service related obligations will be between the service provider, and receiver. AG (as a land lord) expects to intervene in substance related issues only when they pose a problem.
Q - What other rules would be required of the tenants for the peaceful co-habitation of the camp?
A - There's a lights out quiet time in the plan.
We go back to the problem being homeless on the streets, and in our neighborhoods sick diseased and dying, and the AG solution being far better than the alternative at a price that's lower than it costs to battle the streets. We logically anticipate the less than ideal lifestyle will encourage many to move up from AG.
Q - What about the innocent but disruptive issues that often come with the very mentally ill, like the person up all night screaming at the voices in their heads? They have not done anything "wrong" yet their presence can prevent a good night's sleep someone has paid for.
A - The rent at AG is lower than the streets costs them. We want occupants to realize that much of it may not be avoidable, and therefore comes with the territory.
AG is still much better than the alternative, where they never get a good night sleep. However homeless advocates claim that noise concerns at congested homeless areas like the riverbed are minimal.
Q - How far apart are the tents/spaces? Is there enough space for reasonable sound attenuation, so the snoring or other "nocturnal noises" of campers/couples is not disruptive?
A - tent spaces are close, but not as close as the beds at shelters where there are multiple individuals sharing one room.
Q - What about a dog on dog incident or dog on person?
A - We can't guarantee no problems, but we will do our best to keep them to a minimum.
Since there is a large number of homeless with dogs, there needs to be a pet friendly place in order to reach our goal in conquering the homeless plague. Regular pet laws remain in effect at AG, but crates are required for all pet owners, and there are multipurpose poles to chain dogs to in order to keep them on, or near their spaces. My experience is most homeless dogs are friendly, so I don't anticipate that sort of problem to occur at AG any more than it does elsewhere. Cats will be in the general population area, as they can't be confined, they know to stay away from dogs, and they'll be assets to any rodent issues.
Q - Your numbers seem like a LOT of people in one space. Even with space between tents, the density can become hard to manage.
A - I assume "manage" means something like babysit and control? AG plans to live and let live, same as renting out motel rooms. However the plan/map can be adjusted to enlarge space sizes.
The intent is to generate reasonable revenue for the sq. footage as well as charge reasonably to ensure they're only getting what they pay for and still getting their basic human needs met. We don't want to encourage mobile individuals to hang in the sleeping area all day, but rather venture out in their clean clothes and enjoy the parks as once again regular people, or seek employment, and so on. It's designed to get mobile individuals out and about to feel human again. It's natural therapy, not forced. - As regards density, the Kraemer Place shelter has 200 beds in a 24,000 sq. ft. indoor confinement. Therefore the outdoor density of 416 spaces on 3 acres land is considerably less dense. The county plans to erect a large, 200-person, tent in 3 locations. At AG rules are to be followed, or it's back to the alternative. Suspension from AG can be one working solution for bad behavior.
Q - What is the process if someone cannot/will not pay the rent? Or they include someone else in their tent?
A - The same legal process that's used by boarding houses/transitional living homes.
We should not waiver from payment policies, but I logically assume they'll want to pay and follow the simple rules to avoid the alternative. Non-payers can be directed to financial services for assistance before losing their space.
Q - Is a tent provided? What about someone who wants to use their own tarps and cardboard etc. to make a cover or expand their covering? (I'm thinking in terms of neighbors and the visual cacophony of multi-colored coverings that is often a turn-off.) How do we show the locals this won't be blight/ugly so they buy in too?
A - no one on the outside, and on the ground should be able to see inside as it's surround by an 8-foot block wall, and you'd have to get past two guards, the parking lot, and the visitors area. Only occupants, staff, and police can enter the sleeping area but regulation matching tents, bedrolls, and ground covers will be provided upon entry. Aesthetic rules will not permit the use of blue tarps and unsightly cardboard.
Q - Same issue, outdoor storage of "stuff" too big for lockers. Bike parts etc. The homeless hang onto all kinds of scraps they see as valuable, creating visual blight. How do we address this for balance?
A - Only permitted items will be allowed outside of tents, and storage closets.
- There's never enough room for things no matter how much space you have.
- Most people tend to hang on to all kinds of things, but the homeless don't have a garage to hide them in and still look neat.
- Some of the things they hang on to act as some kind of security and can likely be parted with when given real security. They will have a choice to part with what's not needed that doesn't fit inside closets, or take the alternative. One way to accomplish cooperation with this is by not requiring a time limit and allowing - those who can - to move on as they acclimate to their better lives.
Q - Is food permitted in tents? How do you manage rodents etc if food not properly stored?
A - yes food is permitted in tents and coolers. The plan will include garbage containers throughout the grounds, regular trash pick up, and grounds keeping. We'll remind occupants to dispose of their expired uneaten food, keep tents closed, and use their coolers.
Q - How is food storage/cooking etc handled for group meals?
A - No kitchen, no cooking; bare necessities only.
Food delivery services can set up in the visiting service area. How are they eating now? Are there kitchens at the riverbed? Are there kitchens in motel rooms? No, they go out for food. It can be therapeutic to get out each day for a bite, or enough healthy snacks for a few days. Most homeless individuals have food stamps, and bus passes, and going out should pose very few NIMBY issues (and considerably less than we have presently) since clean clothing and having nothing in tow would permit them to look more like average folks. Storing of raw meat is not permitted (meat is not a basic human need). Raw fruit, veggies, and nuts are healthy foods that don't have to be cooked. There is a wide variety of other purchasable edibles that don't require cooking. This brings us back to the "they only get what they pay for, basic human needs concept. We are focusing on the problem, the solution, and avoiding the alternative, not setting people up in a 5 star campground where they'll want to stay indefinitely even if they don't have to
Q - Do you anticipate utilities provided or only to the group buildings/tents?
A - AG will provide water, pre-set lighting, phone chargers, and Wi-Fi. No electricity to plug into.
Outlets could be hazardous, and we want to avoid extension cords running to TVs and who knows what. Do they have electricity at the riverbed? bare necessities, basic human needs, etc.
Q - Are motorhome campers permitted in parking lot? How many to a motorhome? What about those who sleep in cars and fear tents?
A - No motor homes, no sleeping in cars. That's a separate group to which I would give my support, but not AG affiliated, as I aim to focus on one thing and to do it really well.
Q - Is the camp secure in terms of non-campers coming in? How is that enforced? How do we prevent non-campers causing trouble?
A - Yes. Everyone has to sign in to access the visiting area, and only occupants, staff and police are allowed past the visiting area. Thumb print access for occupants to access the sleeping area.