Within three weeks, Orange County officials plan to clear the county’s largest homeless encampment, a tent city along the Santa Ana River in Anaheim and Orange where several hundred people now live and sleep.
Anaheim City Council members Kris Murray and Tom Tait and Orange Councilman Mike Alvarez say they are aware of the county’s impending action, with Murray saying it would come “within the next month or so, the Orange County Register reported Friday. Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer later confirmed that the county will clear the encampment on Jan. 22, according to the newspaper.
County spokeswoman Carrie Braun, who wouldn’t confirm the timing of the encampment removal, said the county needs to close the area for an “environmental remediation project” and because the flood control channel wasn’t safe for human habitation, the Register reported. Spitzer said the county would attempt to link the displaced people with shelter.
The county will post notices on Tuesday along the riverbed warning homeless people that they soon will have to relocate, Spitzer said.
Homeless advocates immediately denounced the county’s plan as illegal and inhumane, saying it perpetuates a system that makes it a crime to be homeless and simply shuffles people from one location to another, according to the Register. They said there aren’t enough shelter beds or permanent housing to lodge all the riverbed homeless and that the displacement will send upwards of 1,000 homeless people spilling into adjacent cities.
The county’s action will culminate its yearlong attempt to remove people living along the flood control channel — a process that has incrementally shuttered other encampments along 30 miles of the Santa Ana River, concentrating people in a short stretch in Orange and Anaheim.
“We’re not going to allow this to become Orange County’s Skid Row, and that’s the way it’s operating now,” Spitzer, whose district includes the large encampment, told the Register. This is the northern gateway to our county and it’s not safe for habitation, especially during the anticipated rainy season.
Homeless people have been sleeping along the county’s flood control channel for at least a decade, but the encampments there have grown substantially during the past two years, a period in which homelessness increased by 8 percent countywide. The encampments have riled local residents, cyclists and business owners, who claim the homeless camp increased property crime in the area. That has included persistent complaints from representatives of the Honda Center and Anaheim Angels, the Register reported.
—City News Service
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