Last week, my wife and I had the pleasure of being invited to tour two permanent housing facilities for people with mental issues, run by Jamboree Housing and similar to the one being proposed by the Friendship Shelter in the canyon. I became involved in this issue because for the past four years I have been going to the Laguna Beach dog park on a daily basis. My wife is also president of the Friends of the Dog Park.
I deeply appreciated the tour of the facilities and the professional manner in which all sorts of questions were answered by our hosts. I left the tour with some of my concerns resolved and a couple of new ones.
First my resolved concerns: I was worried that the people living in the permanent housing facility would be the mentally ill homeless we see in town or in the canyon; people who could be a danger to themselves or others. I found the people living in these facilities to be well taken care of, both by themselves and their caseworkers. They were proud of their homes and of their neighbors. Additionally, we were told that most tenants were from the local area.
However I was left with new concerns. First, each of these facilities was in a neighborhood that had easy walking access to supermarkets, restaurants, and neighborhood activities. While it was made clear to us the housing employees or their case workers often drove that tenants around, the tenants told us they walked their neighborhood for services. I believe walking the canyon would be a danger to these folks.
Secondly, each of these facilities was very large. With a plan to house 40 people on a limited amount of land in between the Marine Mammal Center and the dog park, I imagine this building would have to be large as well. This could fundamentally change the canyon. Of course, not having seen the plan, I may be wrong.
Finally, each of the facilities was in a low-income area, not a tourist town. One is located on an off ramp to the 5 Freeway, and another just a few blocks from the 405 Freeway. That being the case, I think we might be creating a future for Laguna in which the canyon doesn’t add to the beauty and allure which is its economic basis.
Overall I was impressed with the facilities and the services they provide. I was thrilled for the people who lived in them and I would support such housing in Laguna. I just believe the location is wrong.
Michael Waldman, Laguna Beach