UPDATED Fact Check: Councilmember Barnes Misleads Public About Homeless Shelter Plans

[Editor’s Note: the story has been updated with reporting from Councilwoman Barnes’ community meeting.]

District 1 Councilwoman Denise Barnes may or may not be running for re-election in 2020, but she is actively engaging in political mischief and gamesmanship.

Last week, she used her councilmember Facebook page to feed the public very misleading information about a proposal to increase the city’s inventory of homeless shelter beds in order to retain the ability to enforce the city’s anti-camping laws:

Not only is Barnes’ “shock” disingenuous, but she is deliberately misleading residents into thinking Mayor Harry Sidhu and Councilmember Steve Faessel and Jordan Brandman are conspiring to stick a homeless shelter in District 1. This is entirely false – as Barnes knows, since she presumably read the staff report on Item 14. The truth is the recommendation is for adding 100 beds to the Salvation Army’s interim shelter near the Platinum Triangle.

Since Councilwoman Barnes isn’t interested in giving her constituents the facts, here they are.

Last November, Councilman Jordan Brandman requested the city look into adding additional homeless shelter beds, and expressed his willingness to locate those additional beds in District 2.

This is necessary because there are more homeless in Anaheim, and if the city is to be able to enforce laws meant to keep parks clear of homeless encampments then there must be a sufficient number of homeless shelter beds.

An ad hoc committee consisting of Sidhu, Brandman and Faessel was formed, which led to issuance of a request for proposal (RFP) for partnering with the city to add 50-100 shelter beds – with a focus on women, families, couples and pets – within three-to-four months.

The city received proposals from the Salvation Army and the Illumination Foundation, both of which are currently provide homeless services for the city.

The Salvation Army proposal earned a significantly higher score from the review committee. Rather than creating a new shelter from scratch, the Salvation Army proposal would add the requested 50-100 beds sooner and at a lower cost.

For that reason, the ad hoc committee recommendation is add the additional 50-100 beds at the Salvation Army’s interim shelter – not in District 1, as Councilwoman Barnes dishonesty contends.

Barnes deceptively claims this entire process took place “behind closed doors.” The truth is the RFP process was open and public.

Chuztpah, Deception and Cynicism
Barnes compounds her cynicism with chutzpah by trying to claim credit for eliminating the homeless encampment at Maxwell Park, writing how “we have just reclaimed out beloved Maxwell Park from being a homeless encampment.”

“We?” That homeless encampment took root and grew while Barnes while she was a member of the Tait-Moreno council majority.  While Barnes was in the majority with the ability to take action, residents got a lot of palaver and hand-wringing.

The only reason the Maxwell Park homeless encampment was cleared was thanks to Mayor Sidhu’s energetic effort to open an emergency homeless shelter shortly after being sworn-in. The addition of those shelter beds enabled the city to enforce the anti-camping ordinance and clear the Maxwell Park encampment.

Maintaining the city’s ability to continue enforcing its bans on camping and storing property on city property is reason for adding 50-100 more shelter beds. Without additional beds, Anaheim won’t be able to enforce anti-campaign laws (per the Boise decision) and the encampments will return.

Barnes knows this. She knows there is no Sidhu-led effort to stick a homeless shelter in District 1 – yet misleads the public otherwise.

Barnes knows the RFP process leading to this recommendation was open, public and transparent – yet misleads the public otherwise.

Barnes knows the ad hoc committee recommendation is to augment the existing Salvation Army facility and not to create a new shelter in District 1 – and yet she misleads the public otherwise.

Councilwoman Barnes does a disservice to her constituents by cynically and disingenuously trying to whip them into a lather for her political purposes.

Barnes Didn’t Read The Staff Report
As it turns out, Councilwoman Barnes didn’t even finish reading the staff report on the homeless bed proposals before launching a misinformation grenade into the public square.

West Anaheim activist David Klawe attended her community meeting last night. During discussion of the Salvation Army/Illumination Foundation proposals, Klawe countered Barnes’ claim of back-room conspiracy to force a homeless shelter on District 1.

Recounting the exchange on the Anaheim Blog Facebook page, Klawe reminded Barnes she can question staff outside of council meetings, and that the RFP meeting was open to the public:

What is discussed is privileged, but councilmembers at least can ask questions to staff in advance to be prepared for the actual meeting. But I pointed out 4 groups attended the Proposal Meeting the staff held on December 5th.

Here’s the kicker from Klawe:

Denise asked me where I got that info, I said the staff report (Bottom of page 2). One point some folks don’t know. Cynthia Ward, who ran for Mayor in the last election, is one of Denise Barnes 2 staff members.

District 1 voters must feel reassured their councilmember isn’t doing her homework, and didn’t bother informing herself before raising false alarms to stir up her constituents.


  1. Eggs are best served sunny side up

    Don’t worry Denise. While you try to make yourself out to be West Anaheim’s salvation and Jose cries alligator tears about the city not providing enough to those “experiencing homelessness”, District 5 will do all the heavy lifting…. again.

  2. David Michael Klawe

    Early this morning, the Voice of OC released an article titled “Anaheim Poised to Expand Salvation Army Homeless Shelter”

    Seems like they could read the Staff Report and see who will be picked.

  3. There is so much we need to know buy
    we definitely need a new leadership.
    Barnes is been a weak council and she needs to go.

  4. I’ve been working for Councilmember Barnes since last April, so if y’all are just now getting around to reporting that old news, then I’m not sure folks who come here looking for the inside track at City Hall are getting the best value for their time.

    So what is the outrage all about? The Councilmember alerted her constituents that something on the agenda has the potential to impact their neighborhood. Is this not what she is supposed to do for those who elected her?

    Or is your argument that she has no reason to sound the alarm because staff has recommended the Salvation Army option in D5 and the Council ALWAYS follows staff’s recommendation? There’s a property at Imperial Highway and La Palma whose owner could tell you about how Council follows staff recommendations.

    As long as an item is on the agenda, the community needs to be aware of that item. That’s responsible leadership. That’s what Councilmember Barnes offers her constituents. But I admit I’m likely biased.


    • Matthew Cunningham

      In her FB post, Councilwoman Barnes misled the public into thinking the proposed shelter in D1 was cooked up “behind closed doors.” Which is false.

      She(?) wrote the post in such a way as to mislead her constituents into thinking Sidhu, Faessel and Brandman were trying to jam a homeless shelter into D1. Again, false.

      The choice was between adding 100 shelter beds to an existing facility in D5 in 3-4 months, and operate for 2-4 years at an annual cost of less than $2 million. OR, a new shelter that wouldn’t open for at least 7 months and entailed a 20-year commitment at a cost of $40+ million.

      It’s silly to suppose the council was going to go with the latter.

      If Barnes’ intent was NOT to inflame her constituents but simply alerting her constituents to the possibility, something like this would have done the job:

      “At next week’s meeting, the City Council will choose between two options for adding up to 100 beds to our inventory of homeless shelter beds. City staff is recommending adding them to the existing Salvation Army facility in District 5. The alternative is an Illumination Foundation proposal to locate the beds in District 1.

      The Salvation Army proposal would the shelter beds more quickly and at a much lower cost. Therefore, I am supporting that option and I hope my council colleagues will agree.”

    • Cynthia, since you are such an expert on the Brown Act, can you find the time to educate your boss about it? She’s been on council for three years and she still fumbles around.

  5. David Michael Klawe

    So, the Salvation Army project was approved 7-0. Interesting to note that Councilmember Barnes stated that Sandra Sagart contacted her about the D1 proposal while she was in Sacramento. So she had prior knowledge and the process was moving forward.

    And on item 13, the Serrano Project, she was for a week’s continuance to review documents and claims, if not offered, she would vote no, reversing her vote.

    I am very pleased that the Salvation Army was approved.

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