“The City needs to do the right thing: protect and serve Tustin’s most vulnerable residents, its children.”
TUSTIN, Calif. (PRWEB) November 05, 2018
Residents of Tustin are disheartened with the City’s recent decision to convert its vacant Advanced Technology and Education Park (ATEP) facility, located at 15445 Lansdowne Rd., into an emergency homeless shelter -- steps away from Heritage Elementary School and across the street from the future Tustin Veterans Sports Park. The City of Tustin quietly made the decision as it entered into a settlement agreement to produce at least 50 emergency shelter beds within 120 days.
“It’s not the news about the shelter that’s upsetting – homelessness in Orange County needs to be addressed. It’s the location adjacent to an elementary school and park combined with the lack of transparency from the City that upsets us,” said Tina Diep, Heritage Elementary School parent, and head of her community’s Neighborhood Watch Committee. “The safety and security of the children of Tustin should be the City of Tustin’s top priority.” Diep said.
Lack of Transparency
The news of the incoming shelter site neighboring Heritage Elementary was not only a surprise and disappointment to Tustin residents, but also to some of Tustin’s leaders. On November 1, Tustin City Council Candidate and current Planning Commissioner Chair, Austin Lumbard, Former Mayor, Terry Amante, and Former Mayor, Douglas S. Davert wrote a letter to Tustin City Manager, Jeff Parker. This letter expressed that while the City needs to address homelessness, it has ignored the fact that the proposed site is “nervously close to an elementary school.”
The letter also asserts that the Planning Commission was never consulted in site selection and that the City failed to inform school administration, the public, and many City Hall employees. The letter concludes with a call to action:
“We urge you to stop and quickly consider different sites. While it’s difficult to speculate which locations have already been considered -- since that information has not been shared -- we suggest taking a closer look at other options away from sensitive uses such as schools, parks, and residential neighborhoods.”
Since the news leaked on October 25, via neighborhood social platform, Nextdoor.com, the forum has become flooded with comments from concerned Tustin Legacy-area parents. Once the City of Tustin distributed a press release validating the rumors, concerned residents decided to take action by forming the Protect Tustin Kids Organization.
Protect Tustin Kids built a Facebook page, a website, and created a petition urging its leaders to find a safer shelter site location. The petition has now been signed by nearly 1,500 concerned residents, and continues to gain more signatures.
Convenience over Safety
As stated in an attachment to the November 6, 2018 City Council Meeting agenda, it is revealed that this proposed location is the most convenient and cost-effective option that would allow for compliance with the timeline of the federal court settlement. This sends a clear message to Tustin residents: City leaders are placing higher value on what’s convenient for them over the safety of Tustin children.
“As an officer assigned to a Homeless Outreach Program, I work with transients from the South East LA riverbed every day, providing resources such as medical help, EBT cards, and shelter assistance. In my experience, this is absolutely a safety risk for our children. Yet, the City is willing to expose our kids to this environment of unstable and potentially dangerous people because it’s the quickest and cheapest option,” said a Heritage parent, and Senior Police Officer who requested to stay anonymous. “As a Heritage parent, and law enforcement officer who works with transients every day, I’m shocked and disgusted,” he said.
The officer also notes that a couple months ago, his own Tustin neighborhood, Columbus Square, experienced 7-9 car break-ins by one transient woman in a single night. “This is already happening to residents in this location, imagine what it will be like once 50 more transients move in down the street,” he said.
A Message to the City of Tustin
Last week, parents and residents passed out fliers and created signs to make the public aware of what is happening to Heritage Elementary School and potentially its students. On the morning of Thursday, November 1st, nearly 100 concerned residents and Heritage parents held a peaceful protest at the future site of the proposed homeless shelter. Over the course of the morning, the group spread its message between the proposed shelter site and the intersection of Redhill and Valencia avenues, to inform residents and send a message to the City of Tustin leadership: our children’s safety must be valued over convenience.
Media outlets, including NBC LA and the Orange County Register, were in attendance at this demonstration, as well as Tustin City Council Candidates, Barry Cooper, and Austin Lumbard who have both publicly shown support for the Protect Tustin Kids movement.
Since the peaceful protest, the upcoming Tuesday, November 6, City Council meeting agenda has been updated with a motion for the Council Members to vote whether they are in favor of exploring alternate site locations or moving forward with the site selected on Lansdowne Rd.
Tustin residents are urging the City Council to remember that a vote in favor of finding an alternate location for the emergency shelter would protect both vulnerable populations. A vote to forge ahead with the current plan is a vote decidedly against children's safety.
“Concerned parents, like myself, will be attending the City Council meeting this Tuesday evening—and many of us have registered to address the Council, and request they vote in favor of revisiting location options,” said Sonal Patel, parent of 3 children attending Heritage.
“Anyone who wants to see the City make a more thoughtful decision on this shelter’s location, should attend this meeting. Whether you sign up to speak, or just come to listen, the results of the council vote on seeking an alternate location might change the course of our kids’ lives,” said Patel.
Heritage parent, and local Pediatrician, Huy Nguyen echos Patel’s statement and encourages residents to continue to send emails and make phone calls to City Council members, the Tustin Unified School District, and Tustin Board of Education. The Protect Tustin Kids Organization hosts city leadership contact information on its site.
Nguyen concludes: “The City needs to do the right thing: protect and serve Tustin’s most vulnerable residents, its children.”
About Protect Tustin Kids Organization
The Protect Tustin Kids Organization is a group of concerned parents and neighbors in the Tustin Legacy community working together to stop the City of Tustin from establishing a 50-bed homeless shelter 500 feet from Heritage Elementary School. While we support the City of Tustin in its efforts to help the homeless individuals in our community, we believe the proximity of the shelter to Heritage Elementary School and the incoming Veterans Sports Park is a safety risk to our children. Please visit http://www.protecttustinkids.com for more information, and to learn how you can get involved.