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Anaheim should allow home for homeless women with mental health issues, California Attorney General says

Orange County Register - 10/4/2022

Anaheim has again found itself on the opposite side of a housing issue from state officials, who are asking to join a lawsuit a nonprofit filed early this year after the city denied it a permit for transitional housing.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta, representing the Department of Housing and Community Development, on Monday filed a petition in Orange County Superior Court seeking to intervene in Grandma's House of Hope's suit against Anaheim.

The nonprofit, which serves homeless women, operates 10 homes in Anaheim in addition to the one in the historic Anaheim Colony district that is at the center of the lawsuit. Grandma's House of Hope founder Je'net Kreitner had asked the city for a permit to open a home for homeless women with mental health issues; 15 women would be clients, and one successful graduate of the nonprofit's programs would live on-site to supervise overnight. When denied, she opened it with six women, which is allowed by state law without a permit.

In Monday's court filing, Bonta's office argued that in denying the permit, the city violated several housing laws, and it should be ordered to stop requiring permits for supportive housing if it doesn't require them for other homes of the same type in the same zone.

"The city of Anaheim's effort to limit Grandma's House of Hope's ability to provide much-needed housing opportunities to this vulnerable group of women is a clear violation of California law," Bonta said in a news release.

"Cities and counties cannot discriminate against housing designed for people with disabilities or who have recently experienced homelessness," he said. "They also cannot require permits for transitional or supportive housing that they do not require for other housing in the same residential zone."

Anaheim city leaders have heard from dozens of residents in the Colony district who said their neighborhood is already "saturated" with community care homes and other business uses.

City spokesman Mike Lyster said in a statement Monday that Anaheim's history of partnering with Grandma's House of Hope should make clear its commitment to supportive housing, but "we must also look at concentration and proximity, not just for those already living in a neighborhood but for those in need of healthy, recovery housing in a neighborhood setting.

"While that is a delicate, challenging balancing act that falls to local governments such as ours, we look forward to a resolution and moving forward."

Kreitner said her nonprofit "has always been a responsible housing provider" in Anaheim and has been operating there for more than 19 years.

She called it unfortunate that the issue wound up in court and added, "We are anxious to get back to doing what we do best, helping the unhoused get the help they need."

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