Homelessness in Lake Forest

The City of Lake Forest has adopted a multi-pronged approach to homelessness to ensure the rights and dignity of those experiencing homelessness as well as the safety and comfort of residents and business owners. Those who need to access City resources related to homelessness should:

Remember, homelessness is not a crime. The law does not prevent individuals from sitting, laying or sleeping in public if no existing shelter bed is available. In Martin versus City of Boise (9th Circle 2018) 902 F.3d 1031, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment precludes the enforcement of a statute or ordinance prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to a shelter. The Court ruled, "So long as there is a greater number of homeless individuals in (a jurisdiction) than the number of available beds (in shelters), the jurisdiction cannot prosecute homeless individuals for involuntarily sitting, lying, and sleeping in public."

Click here to read an overview of the impacts of the Martin v. Boise decision in the Los Angeles Times. 

The Lake Forest City Council in August directed the City Attorney to file a "friend of the court" brief in support of the City of Boise, which has petitioned the United States Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

Click here to read the brief filed by the seven South OC Cities.

While some programs are available to help those experiencing homelessness, it often takes time to gain the trust of individuals to learn enough information about them to find an appropriate program, or to help them to enter a program. The City employs a full-time Sheriff's Deputy as a Homeless Liaison Officer and contracts with the nonprofit Mercy Housing and City Net to help those experiencing homelessness get off the streets.

Have more questions? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions On Homelessness Webpage.

A couple reviews display boards at the Lake Forest Listens event.

Residents Find Answers at 'Lake Forest Listens: Homelessness'

More than 150 residents took advantage of the opportunity to talk to the people working to solve homelessness at the first "Lake Forest Listens: Homelessness" on October 29.

Those attending learned about Lake Forest's multi-faceted approach to solving homelessness, as well as the legal and other challenges that add to the complexity of the issue. They also shared their vision for a potential redesign of The Arbors to return the area to its original intent as a welcoming entry to the El Toro Road commercial corridor.

Participating agencies included:

  • Orange County Health Care Agency
  • The United Way
  • Families Forward
  • South County Outeach
  • Mercy House
  • City Net
  • OC Sheriff's Department
  • Best Best & Kreiger (City Attorney's Office)
  • Office of Supervisor Lisa Bartlett
  • RJM Design Group (Arbors Architects)

Click here for a list of the most frequently asked questions, with answers

Interacting with Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

  • Do answer questions with a firm "No"
  • Do treat homeless individuals with respect
  • Do make donations or volunteer with organizations helping the homeless
  • Do notify the Lake Forest Homeless Engagement and Resources Team (LFHEART) of homeless individuals by calling 282-5219 or emailing LFHEART.
  • Don't encourage panhandling by giving money
  • Don't allow anyone to camp or loiter on private property, including HOA property

The City of Lake Forest encourages residents to give if they choose, but give responsibly. By donating to a charity that serves those experiencing homelessness rather than directly to the individual, it encourages the individual to reach out to an organization ready and able to bring long-term help. 

Positive Change, Not Spare Change

What Lake Forest is Doing to Prevent Homelessness

Through its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, Lake Forest partners with nonprofit organizations that assist at-risk families and those experiencing homelessness. Our partners include:

Families Forward: Families Forward provides assistance through housing, food, counseling, education and other support services. In 2017, Families Forward assisted 167 households and 582 individuals with homeless-prevention services, which can include rental subsidies, case management, a food pantry, life-skills workshops and transitional housing units, some of which are located in Lake Forest.

Family Assistance Ministries: Family Assistance Ministries provides food, supportive counsel, rental-assistance programs, an interim shelter for homeless single women and mothers with children, Permanent Supportive Housing and Rapid Re-housing Programs.

South County Outreach: South County Outreach (SCO) helps those in crisis reach self-sufficiency by providing food, rental and utility assistance, homeless prevention counseling, housing, computer training, clothing and other seasonal programs. SCO offers a food pantry in Irvine and rapid re-housing as well as transitional re-housing, including 11 condominiums in Lake Forest that serve homeless families with minor children. South County Outreach assisted 1,458 Lake Forest residents in 2017, which included 132 calls to prevent eviction.

Affordable Housing Program: Lake Forest has more than 500 affordable units, including 187 apartments in Baker Ranch. In Portola Hills, construction will begin on a 56-unit affordable complex for seniors, and 18 additional affordable units will be built with the new homes. The City also has an agreement with with National Community Renaissance that dedicated $3.76 million in-lieu of housing fees to build affordable housing in Lake Forest.

Other Resources

  • The Orange County Office of Care Coordination has an assessment of homeless services in Orange County as well as a list of available resources and other information.
  • Dial 2-1-1 or (888) 600-4357 or view the 211 website for information, referrals and assistance to food, shelters and human services.
  • Orange County Health Care Agency Outreach and Engagement team reaches out to individuals who are at risk or struggling with homelessness, mental health and/or substance abuse problems. Call (800) 364-2221.
  • The Homeless Multi-Service Center, a drop-in center for homeless individuals with mental illness or co-occurring disorders, is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily at 2416 S. Main St., Santa Ana. Transportation may be available. Call (714) 668-1530.
  • The Comprehensive Health Assessment Team - Homeless allows Public Health Nurses to provide targeted nursing case management for Orange County residents who are in housing crisis. Clients are seen in shelters, soup kitchens, motels and on the streets. Call (714) 834-8498.