A federal judge ordered attorneys for the homeless and Orange County officials to work out a solution “today” to the relocation of hundreds of homeless who were moved from the Santa Ana riverbed in Anaheim to area motels in February.
The rare weekend hearing was called so U.S. District Judge David O. Carter could review the next steps in the case, after lawyers for the transients filed court papers Thursday asking for an extension of the 30-day motel vouchers the transients were given when they were removed from the riverbed. The transients were notified Thursday they must be moved to other shelters as early next week.
Saturday’s hearing began at 9 a.m. and recessed for lunch before noon, but not before Carter told lawyers for the county and the homeless to meet and produce a solution or “don’t leave,” according to a KPCC reporter at the hearing.
Carter also said he wanted a homeless encampment at the Santa Ana Civic Center, where some 150 people spend the night, cleared within the next few weeks, KPCC reported.
A hearing on the long-term plans for the riverbed transients was originally scheduled for April 3, but Carter moved it up to Saturday over concerns for the “potentially rushed displacement” of the homeless.
County officials said they have enough beds in shelters and other facilities to move the transients staying at motels. County supervisors this week allocated an additional $2 million for the riverbed transients.
But Carter wants assurances the county has resources to find beds for the transients when they leave the motels. Carter asked representatives from every Orange County city to attend Saturday’s hearing.
Attorneys for the homeless argued in Thursday’s court filing that several transients were falsely told they had been denied further services or were being sent to shelters they deemed inappropriate.
One of those transients, Andrea Phipps, is pregnant and depends on help from her “partner,” according to the filing. She was told she would be moved Monday morning to a mental health facility.
“She does not need treatment for mental illness,” according to the filing. “Moreover, she has not been told where the placement is and whether her partner, the father of her child, will be placed with her. Ms. Phipps’ pregnancy involved medical complications and she depends upon her partner to help her.”
The plaintiffs also allege that one transient could not get through to social workers the county hired from City Net, and when she finally went to a City Net meeting she was told she was not one of their clients as the county had informed her, according to the court document.
Orange County Board Chairman Andrew Do disputed claims the county may not have enough shelter for transients when they segue out of the motels.
Do said the number of transients in motels is likely less than 700 because some homeless people got in line twice for extra rooms. He estimated on the “high end” there may be 650 people in motels, and deducting 120 people who refused service, the county would need shelter for 530, he said.
“The county has at least that many beds in order to accommodate 530 people,” Do said.
Also, he noted, the county has allocated the $2 million to pay for more beds if necessary.
“We have no fear we’ll have an adequate number of beds for people transitioning out of motels,” Do said.
For those transients who refuse service, the county will have social workers and other officials available to help them anyway.
—City News Service
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