From left, program director Analisa Andrus, resident Glenn Murray, addiction counselor Neil Rosen with his dog Freddy, and house supervisor Karlie Noyes in the dining room of the Laguna Friendship Shelter on Wednesday. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot / September 18, 2013)

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Glenn Murray worked as a dental technician for 12 years and was also in construction. He wasn't rich by any stretch, but he made enough to rent a room in Laguna Beach.

Then his mother in New Orleans became sick with dementia. Murray volunteered to take care of her, draining his savings in the process.

She died in October 2012, leaving him out of the will. Murray, who graduated from Laguna Beach High School, found himself back in Orange County, staying first in a abandoned camper at a construction site in Huntington Beach and then on the streets.

Murray, now 56, found revival in the Friendship Shelter, a transitional housing and rehabilitative shelter on Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. The center takes in about 32 men and women at a time, providing meals, a place to stay and clothing so clients can save money.

"I had my pride. I didn't want to get CalFresh or any government programs to help me," Murray, choking up, said of the debit-card program that has replaced traditional food stamps.

Murray feels as if life's clock has been turned back as he emerges from homelessness.

"I feel like I'm 18, trying to move out of my parents' house," he said. "The first thing to do is get a car."

Murray began saving money from his part-time construction jobs once he arrived at the Friendship Shelter about six months ago. One of his handyman gigs pays $35 an hour.

He saved $6,000 and bought a truck.

"Now I can make more money because I have transportation and be a better employee for the employer," he said. "If not for them [Friendship Shelter], I would have been in the gutter."


Laguna Resources

Many people without homes frequent Laguna Beach, sleeping on benches and the steps of businesses.

And though the community is largely tolerant, problems arise among the homeless, even when they are sheltered. The police log sometimes reveals scuffles outside the Alternative Sleeping Location, and in May police arrested an ASL resident on suspicion of assaulting a 71-year-old woman.

Laguna Beach Police Chief Paul Workman has seen the number of homeless people in the city fluctuate since he joined the force in the 1970s.

Though some critics accuse police of indiscriminately ticketing the homeless and taking their belongings, Workman said officers aren't out to get anyone and are doing all they can to address problems.

"We're not targeting homeless people," he said. "We're targeting behavioral problems. We can arrest a person 100 times a year, but we can help someone once, put him [or her] into a program."

The city installed a security camera so the police watch commander can monitor the bus depot on Broadway Street, while foot and bike patrol officers cover the city.

"We're trying to help, instead of forcing people out of the area," Workman said. "[Police Cpl.] Jason [Farris] helps get them sober, or mental health treatment. It takes multiple approaches."

Farris is the community outreach officer who works directly with the homeless in the city.