After four years of offering homeless people storage space for their belongings next to La Palma Park, Anaheim officials say they may reduce the service because use of it has declined.
In addition to two cargo containers in a fenced-in area, the La Palma Check-in Center has offered outreach services such as housing assistance, restrooms, a place to charge cellphones and space for church groups and others to provide meals.
The center is open daily for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. Officials may end regular service at the center, but could ask users to make appointments to store or retrieve belongings.
Santa Ana-based Mercy House has run the center since it opened in fall 2013. Larry Haynes, Mercy House’s executive director, said the number of people using the service has “dropped dramatically,” likely because of two factors: Mercy House workers have been able to help 257 single adults and 15 families get into housing, most of it permanent, and some of those who are still on the streets have moved to camps along the Santa Ana River trail.
The check-in center has been important for helping get people’s belongings out of La Palma Park, and for linking people in need with services, Haynes said. It has also helped organize the groups wanting to help people with meals.
Over the past year, visits to the center declined by 45 percent and 30 percent fewer people stored their things there, according to city data.
In October, the City Council postponed a decision on whether to cancel the $114,000 contract with Mercy House and spend any leftover money on other homeless services. The council may take up the issue Tuesday, Nov. 21.
Several residents and council members said last month they didn’t think reducing services to the homeless is a good idea.
Especially with colder, wetter weather on the way, Councilwoman Denise Barnes said, “I don’t want to take our opportunities away from the most vulnerable people that will suffer during this time.”
Rather than closing the facility entirely, Assistant City Manager Kristine Ridge told the council it could continue to offer storage services by appointment only.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring said a storage center on the city’s west side is open by appointment and seems to work. But that center, operated by nonprofit City Net, is only available to its clients who are in the process of getting into a shelter or housing, according to the city.