Homeless Advocates Sue To Stop Clearing of SART Encampment, End Enforcement of Anti-Camping Ordinances

You knew this was coming.

The Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, a progressive advocacy group, is suing the County of Orange and the cities of Anaheim, Orange and Cost Mesa in an effort to stop the process of clearing the Santa Ana River Trail of homeless encampments. The lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of the Orange County Catholic Worker and several homeless people. It seeks to establish the sprawling homeless encampment’s status as a judicially-sanctioned squatters camp until housing is found for each of the estimated 400-1000 people living there. The lawsuit also seeks to prevent the County and the cities of Orange, Anaheim and Costa Mesa from enforcing ban on camping in public parks, loitering and other anti-vagrancy ordinances.

Click here to read the lawsuit.

Since mid-September of 2017, The OC Sheriff’s Department has been conducting law enforcement operations in the SART encampments since mid-September, in tandem with intensive outreach to get the homeless out by connecting them with services. The cities of Orange and Anaheim have participated in this effort.

Last month, the OCSD announced the process of clearing the SART encampment would begin in January, and in January 22 this slow-roll effort began – again in conjunction with County social services staff and contractors offering services to the homeless.

However, from the unique perspective of the OC Catholic Worker, this process is tantamount to “criminalizing” homelessness and violates the constitutional rights of encampment homeless under the 1st, 4th, 8th and 14th Amendments.

Advocates’ Continued Indifference To Rights of Homeowners and Business Owners
The reading the lawsuit is a journey through an alternate universe. The County and the cities of Orange, Anaheim and Costa Mesa are painted in Gestapo colors, while broadbrushing the homeless population of the SART encampments as undifferentiated victims of external forces with no individual responsibility for their situations. Encampment life is painted in almost nostalgic terms; for example, describing how residents of the now-closed Fountain Valley encampment “reconstituted their community” on the SART across from the Honda Center.

No mention of the nightmarish experiences of residents of the Renaissance apartments or the Park Royale Mobile Home Park, who have endured, theft, vandalism, harassment, break-ins, trespassing, used needles strewn about, indecent exposure, public sex acts, prostitution – just a partial list of the impacts of having drug addicts, released criminals and “home-free” urban outdoorsmen erect a squatters village next door.

What about their constitutional rights? Are they not entitled to the equal protection of the law? Don’t they deserve representation? Don’t they have grounds to sue?

The disturbing reality is the more radical homeless advocates – the ACLU, the Mohammed Alys and Eve Garrows and Brooke Weitzmans, the Mike Robbins – are laser-focused on the plight of the homeless to the exclusion of all else. The flip-side of this relentless focus is indifference very negative impacts the encampments they seek to protect have on surrounding neighborhoods. They may pay lip service to residents’ concerns, but it’s no exaggeration to say they baseline attitude is that working, home-owning, law-abiding citizens will have to suck it up until homelessness is “solved.”

The magical thinking of homeless advocates was on display during an exchange at yesterday’s lawsuit press conference between Brooke Weitzman of the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center and a reporter:

Reporter: With housing being the alternative, and it takes a long time to build housing – so you’re saying it should be indefinite they should stay in the riverbed?

Weitzman: I think that when there has been motivation, housing can be built quickly. You know, in this county we have the space, we have the funding. Potter’s Lane went up very quickly. And so while that only helped I think only 15 or so people, I think that the County could solve this problem by investing in housing.

“Motivation”? Who knew the housing shortage was the result of a lack of “motivation”? As for space and funding: where? And how much will it cost? Does Ms. Weitzman have any idea?  Potter’s Lane is a great concept, but it didn’t go up “very quickly” – it took well over a year to house 15 people. Thanks to the regulatory thicket fostered by progressives like Ms. Weitzman, it is impossible to “very quickly” build housing of any kind.

The takeaway from Ms. Weitzman’s answer is she doesn’t really have any idea how the County can conjure up hundreds of units simply by “investing” in housing. If she had been candid with the reporter, she would have admitted that, yeah – she is saying the SART homeless encampment should  be able to remain there indefinitely. And if she and the plaintiffs and their cheering section among the advocate prevail, the squatters village on the SART will become permanent part of the landscape.

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