The federal judge overseeing a lawsuit seeking to prohibit county officials from enforcing anti-camping laws unless shelter is provided for transients toured a site in Santa Ana Tuesday to check on complaints about the homeless there.
Santa Ana officials griped to county leaders about the Mental Health Association facility at 2416 S. Main St. Chief among their concerns is the release of transients being treated there at 3:30 p.m. when students are exiting local schools.
County officials say they are working to change the release time so it doesn’t coincide with classes letting out and have increased security in the area.
The complaints drew a rebuke from Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Do told Santa Ana City Councilman Vicente Sarmiento that it was unfair for the city to try to imply there were homeless encampments in the area.
“I see no evidence of this,” Do said. “It is hard for me to understand how does the city connect this, which is a problem all over the city…
“Even with the shelter across the street (from the county board’s meeting room) we still have lots of people milling around. It’s important we don’t lump this problem with a service center until we know for sure it’s the service center and how they operate.”
Sarmiento defended the city’s complaints about the neighborhood around the center.
“I’m saying it’s an element of what’s causing a problem in that region as well as the Armory” shelter, Sarmiento said. “It’s one contributing element that we should try to work together on as agencies to improve.”
Do said he has been working “extremely closely” with Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing the homeless litigation, on building a “system of care” for the homeless.
“Unfortunately the city of Santa Ana has a fractious council,” Do said. “There are some people running for mayor who are trying to create a fake crisis to have an agenda, a platform, and I really resent dealing with these issues on a sporadic basis.”
Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez is running against Pulido for mayor.
“I would like the city council to get on the same page, have a unified voice, because this is too big a problem for it to become a campaign issue,” Do said.
“To blame a lot of the homeless milling around in that area to be from the MHA Center, there’s no evidence of that,” Do told City News Service after the meeting. “Judge Carter saw there was no problem… They saw like two people in the parking lot and that was it.”
Carter has scheduled a hearing Wednesday that will focus on various locations for emergency shelters in three different regions of the county. It could be a turning point in the litigation, Do said.
If some cities will not accept a shelter then they will be asked to cough up money instead to support homeless services regionally, Do said.
Any city deemed to be refusing to cooperate with solving the homeless problem may be ordered by Carter to stop enforcing anti-camping laws, Do said. Carter may also enforce a state law halting any future development in those cities until they come up with an affordable housing plan, Do said.
Those orders could come down as soon as mid-July, Do said.
“It is definitely within the realm of possibility that Judge Carter will be surgical in issuing his injunction,” Do said.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: