Yesterday, OC Public Works and OC deputy sheriffs began the process of evicting the segment of the Santa Ana River homeless encampment that runs north about 2,300 feet along the west bank of the river from Katella Avenue to a railroad crossing. The tents were pitched on a dirt county maintenance road. By early afternoon, there were still several tents left whose occupants were trying to move their belongings.
I stopped by the northern point of the eviction zone, where the railroad runs between the Honda Center property and the Anaheim Equestrian Center, the Phoenix Club and the Shriner’s hall. This was how it looked a month ago:
This is how the same encampment looked at mid-day yesterday:
An encampment resident left a message for the Honda Center:
An older man told me he’d been living there until the OCPW notices arrived, and was helping other camp residents transport belongings, such as dozens of bicycles parked in front of a large tent that appeared to serve as a common area. A U-Haul truck had just left; the gentleman said a Pastor Donald from the Rock Church in Anaheim had provided to transport the property of the encampment residents and re-settle them on the opposite bank of the Santa Ana River.
This encampment is connected to an even larger encampment on the east bank of the river by a railroad bridge. It was apparent the east bank encampment had grown even larger in the past month:
A good samaritan-type woman was also there. I asked her and the former Westminster city employee if the Kraemer homeless shelter were an option. Neither was certain if it had available space, and the volunteer woman criticized its dormitory-style sleeping arrangements. The man said shelters were full and complained about the lack of affordable housing. Our discussion was cut short when the women said it appeared deputies were driving up the river access road, got in her car and left.
This writer arrived at the southern point of the eviction zone around 1:30 p.m. Two heavy-duty county vehicles, including what looked like a trash truck, were rumbling away, and there were still three OC Sheriff’s Department squad cars on the scene. I was talking to homeless activist Mohammed Aly when a homeless woman cycled up. She was upset and asked Aly how much more time the police had given them. He said about three hours. The woman had already moved her tent across the river but was concerned about the rest of her things, as she had a new job cleaning offices and wanted to sure she secured them.
Many of the homeless had already relocated across the river, especially to a county-owned greenbelt that extends north from Katella Avenue as part of the recreational Santa Ana River trail. It’s landscaped with trees and a public restroom:
“The County had Health Care Agency outreach team members at the Santa Ana River site Monday where the maintenance and clearing were performed to offer resources to those who individuals who might be interested. While it was reported that a small number of openings were available at the Courtyard in Santa Ana at the time Monday, as identified by the Health Care Agency representatives, no members of the public at Monday’s work site accepted offers of assistance,” OC Public Works spokesman Shannon Widor told OC Daily.
“While the County has taken significant steps to address homelessness – opened the 24-hour Courtyard homeless shelter in downtown Santa Ana in Oct 2016 and the first phase of its Bridges at Kraemer Place homeless multi-service center in Anaheim in May this year – not everyone will accept the services the County is offering,” said Widor. “Additionally, the County cannot direct people where to go when they relocate from the project area.”
The Santa Ana River homeless village is now firmly ensconced on both sides of the river from the 22 Freeway all the way north to Ball Road – a distance of nearly five miles. The encampment is beginning to extend north of Ball Road in the direction of Lincoln Avenue. If that trend continues, it will come into direct contact with older, established neighborhoods in Orange and District 5 in Anaheim.
The growing Santa Ana River homeless encampment is contained within the 3rd Supervisor District, which is represented by Todd Spitzer. Last week, Spitzer announced he running against District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, partly on the claim that he is “Solving Homelessness”:
The county recently announced it is allocating $750,000 for a partnership with the non-profit CityNet on a program to entice residents of these homeless encampments to accept help to put them on the road to self-reliance and becoming productive members of society.
At the same time, Spitzer’s claim is tough to swallow for tens of thousands of voters who, on a daily basis, see more homeless living in encampments that are getting bigger and bigger – and bringing crime in their wakes – in defiance of a county government that seems paralyzed by the ACLU.