A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting Orange County officials from enforcing anti-camping laws on the Santa Ana riverbed until at least next week when the jurist will consider a preliminary injunction.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter granted the restraining order when plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging plans to clear out transients from the riverbed claimed that county officials intended to begin enforcing the anti- camping laws on Tuesday.
The concerns that the county planned to begin clearing out transients from the encampments stemmed from an email exchange between attorneys for the county and the plaintiffs, which include several homeless residents living along the riverbed.
Carter pointed out an email from county attorneys “indicating that beginning (Tuesday) morning, Orange County Sheriff’s Department personnel will advise people on the riverbed to leave, and then cite and arrest for trespassing any person who continues to remain.”
The judge granted the restraining order barring “enforcement of any infraction or misdemeanor anti-loitering, trespassing, or camping ordinances or statutes at the riverbed, in light of these laws not having been enforced for the last year.”
Carter said he would “allow police presence and will allow arrests for any probation or parole violations and any felonious conduct, to protect the homeless and the residents in the area.”
But, Carter added, he would not tolerate “haphazard, hurried enforcement action in an effort to clear the population, in contravention of the fundamental issues that the court raised in its Feb. 4, 2018, order…”
In Carter’s Feb. 4 order, he raised the issue of kicking people out of the riverbed even when they have nowhere else to go.
Orange County Board Chairman Andrew Do told City News Service that county officials had no intention of clearing people out of the riverbed on Tuesday.
“The judge seems to believe we were just going to go out there an indiscriminately hand out tickets for trespassing and arresting people and that’s not the case at all,” Do said.
For the past six months, sheriff’s deputies have been advising transients that they would have to eventually leave, and social workers are on site daily offering various services, he said.
“We currently have the capacity to house people in shelters if they choose to take advantage of the services we provide,” Do said. “At no time during this process have we ever run out of capacity in terms of beds available immediately to the residents of the riverbed, so, frankly, I don’t know why Judge Carter did not wait until the hearing on Tuesday so he would be fully informed of the circumstances.”
The county’s attorneys were trying to inform the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that “at some point we will be more encouraging in trying to get people to take advantage of our services and move out and that this cannot be an indefinite process.”
After six months of outreach, “this is the time for people to make up their mind at some point.”
—City News Service
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