A mouse eating cheese. Photo from Pixabay.
A mouse eating cheese. Photo from Pixabay.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Orange County and Anaheim alleging Dickensian conditions in the county’s homeless shelters that include sex abuse, bedbugs and stinking, overflowing toilets.

The lawsuit also alleges that the shelters are too congested and plagued with rodent infestations and extreme temperatures.

“The sexual harassment at the Courtyard was so bad that sometimes I wondered if it would have been better to stay in the abusive relationship I fled,” said plaintiff Deborah Kraft.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Orange County Superior Court alleges the conditions violate the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of transients who have been sheltered at Bridges at Kraemer Place, La Mesa in Anaheim and the Courtyard in Santa Ana.

“Unhoused residents of Orange County retain their civil rights when they enter homeless shelters, yet several of the largest shelters funded by the county and the city of Anaheim permit sexual harassment and substandard living conditions to flourish,” said ACLU attorney Minouche Kandel.

“The shelters and local government further violate residents’ freedom of movement by imposing lock-in/shut-out policies in order to render shelter residents invisible to the communities in which they live.”

Some women in the shelters who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege they were subjected to invasive body searches that were not done with male transients.

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, the vice chairman of the board, told City News Service, “The county has spent many millions of dollars to stand up our homeless programs.”

“Our work has withstood scrutiny in federal court by (U.S. District) Judge David O. Carter,” Do said. “It is hard to believe he would allow these alleged conducts to happen right outside his courthouse. Somebody is reaching here.”

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