Signs of Permanence: Santa Ana River Tent City Has Neighborhoods With Names

Another indication of the growing permanence of the sprawling Santa Ana River tent city: it is grown to such proportions that it has distinct neighborhoods with their own names. The Orange Police Department recently conducted a survey of the riverbank tent city and counted about 600 “camps,” which could be an individual tent or – as is often the case – multi-tent compounds within the tent city.

According to an August 4 Facebook post by Mohammed Aly, the progressive homeless activist who has been calling for the County of Orange to provide tent city inhabitants with showers and restrooms, there are four distinct subdivisons of the Santa Ana River squatters village:

  1. The Big A (next to Angel Stadium)
  2. The Corral (the county-owned greenbelt north of Katella Avenue)
  3. Rampart (the encampment below the Motel 8 and next to the Renaissance apartments)
  4. Fountain Valley (off Edinger).

Aly notes the Rampart encampment “had built a makeshift shower using water from a backflow device, but the County dismantled the shower without providing an alternative.” For some reason, when the County stops the illegal use of public property, its the County’s responsibility to compensate.

He also notes that “Rampart has a bottle filling station, the Big A has CityNet’s mobile home handing out water, and the Corral has a spigot. None of the major encampments other than Fountain Valley presently need donations of bottled water.”

Following are photos of three of the encampments, which I took this morning.

This stretch of greenbelt – part of the Santa Ana River Trail and governed by OC Parks under a memorandum of understanding with the OC Flood Control District – was remarkably empty of tents until recent weeks. The Corral grew even larger after OC Public Works evicted the homeless camped across the river on a dirt maintenance road running along the Honda Center; most of them simply moved across the river to the Corral, many with the help of a U-Haul hired by the Rock Church in Anaheim.
The Corral extends from Katella Avenue north to Ball Road/Taft Avenue.
The Big A is the downtown of the Santa Ana River tent city. A few weeks ago, a County of Orange motorhome began parking on the trail by Orangewood Avenue, as part of the CityNet-led initiative to relocate homeless out of the encampment – focused on the river trail between Chapman and Ball Road.
This morning there were three OC Sheriff’s Department patrol cars and several deputies parked near the motorhome:

The deputies said they were there to provide security at the request of CityNet, which that day was giving Hepatitis A shots at the motorhome. When I asked if such security protocols were standard procedure when giving free shots, I was told it was at the discretion of the folks giving the shots.

They also confirmed the OCSD does not conduct foot patrols on the river trail, saying only the Orange Police Department regularly conducts enforcement patrols along the river trail encampments. Several years ago, the Orange police signed an MOU with the County allowing them to conduct enforcement in the Santa Ana River. The Anaheim Police Department still has no such MOU.

It was trash pick up this morning at the Rampart encampment. Twice a week, a county-contracted crew comes by to pick up trash deposited by camp inhabitants in the trash collection site enclosure. The two workers are garbed in white coveralls and wear thick rubber gloves:

Drug use is widespread in the homeless camps, and deposited in a white painters bucket were dozens of used hypodermic needles:

Hence the reason the clean-up workers wear thick rubber gloves.  And remember – the trash is collected twice a week. That’s a lot of needles piling up between collections. I’ve seen children living in the Rampart encampment. In fact, there is a children’s playground nearby.

It is clear the Santa Ana River tent city is getting bigger, not smaller. None of this existed on the river trail a year ago. It’s metastasizing to the point where it is big enough to have distinct neighborhoods with their own names, reinforces what a massive collapse of governmental authority this illegal shanty town represents. The conditions reinforce that our imperative should be to dismantle them as soon as possible, rather than continuing to enable them.


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