The County of Orange has received the OK from a federal district judge to proceed with removing the sprawling homeless encampment on the Santa Ana River Trail. The judicial go-ahead came with the requirement that transitional housing – such as 30-day motel vouchers and Tuff Shed-type tiny houses on municipal property – be provided as an option to the homeless people living in the encampment. Removal of the encampment will begin on February 20 and take place over three to six days.
In an all-day court session, federal Judge Daivd O. Carter presided over the hammering out of the agreement between representatives from the County of Orange, Anaheim, Orange and Costa Mesa, and homeless advocates who filed lawsuits seeking to stop the evictions.
The following notice will be posted around the SART homeless encampment today:
BY ORDER OF JUDGE DAVID O. CARTER
On Tuesday, February 20, 2018, at 9:00 a.m., all persons presently living on the Santa Ana River between Ball Road/Taft Avenue and Memory Lane must move out of and leave the Santa Ana Riverbed.
Temporary housing will be available at several locations.
Anyone who wants to be placed in a motel will be offered a motel room for a minimum of 30 days while the County completes a housing assessment and opens additional facilities that accommodate the needs of people with disabilities, and their pets when possible. Transportation will be provided for people, their pets when possible, and their property that will fit into the trunk of the transporting vehicle. If people have more property than they can take with them, voluntary storage will be provided for 90 days.
Services for Veterans and Domestic Violence survivors and other homeless will be on site.
Judge David O. Carter will be present to oversee the process.
In motels, people will continue to receive services from County mental health and health care workers who will visit the motel locations and ensure that transportation is available to any medical, social service, or housing appointments. For people who are placed in motels, the County will make provisions for access to food.
During the slow-roll encampment clearing last month, the County was already offering access to shelter beds and supportive services, including free storage of property and kenneling of pets for up to 90 days.
Judge Carter told homeless advocates the SART was not intended or built as a human habitation and he would not prevent the County from clearing it. At the same time, he made a clear to the County that it must make provision for interim sheltering of SART encampment denizens, while recognizing some portion of them ultimately will not accept assistance.
The County pledged to provide beds for 700-800 those living SART encampment, via a combination of adding beds to existing shelters, keeping the temporary shelters open and erecting temporary “tiny house”-type shelter on designated municipal property.
- 32 beds would be added inside the County’s Bridges at Kraemer Place shelter and another 60 sheltered beds in the shelter parking lot in the near term. The Kraemer Shelter was already on track to reach its full 200-bed inside capacity later this year.
- 100 beds at the WISEPlace women’s shelter in Santa Ana
- 100 beds/tents/sheds at an OC Public Works parking lot in Orange, near the SART encampment
- 120 beds/tents/shed on parking lot next to the OC Registrar of Voters facility in Santa Ana.
Judge Carter was clear about his expectation for the County to move in an expeditious and non-bureaucratic manner to deal with the issue. He also made the important distinction that the resources available to the County can and should be used “to alleviate this problem. Not solve it. Alleviate it.”
The next several days will test competing views of the SART homeless population. Homeless advocates tend to characterize them as victims of larger economic forces who ought to be allowed to remain until their issues and circumstances are solved. These advocates tell encampment residents that enforcement of laws against camping and trespassing on the SART violate their constitutional and human rights.
On the other hand, impacted residents, recreationists and businesses have pointed out the encampment contains a significant number of criminals, drug addicts, the “home free” and others euphemistically labeled “service resistant.” They note that well-meaning Good Samaritans who provide a steady stream of free food, clothes, tents, bedding, camping equipment, coffee service, etc. are inadvertently enabling the homeless the remain homeless.
Judge Carter conveyed a realistic perspective on the varied nature of the encampment population, noting to advocates that a number of them are fine with living there, will resist leaving and will have to be removed by law enforcement.
Push will come to shove on February 20, and it will become evident what portion of the SART encampment residents accept the offer of temporary shelter and making the first steps toward recovery and independence, and which, in Judge Carter’s words, “want to wander.”