Judge de­mands quick so­lu­tions to home­less camp

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE -

SANTA ANA (AP) — A fed­eral judge on Tues­day de­manded that lo­cal gov­ern­ment and ac­tivists find a way to help hun­dreds of home­less peo­ple camped along a Cal­i­for­nia trail be­fore he forces them to move from the site.

In an un­con­ven­tional hear­ing, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter called on Or­ange County of­fi­cials, vet­er­ans, women’s ad­vo­cates and oth­ers to step up and of­fer so­lu­tions for those liv­ing on a two-mile stretch of riverbed trail once pop­u­lar with jog­gers and bik­ers that has been over­run by tents, trash and hu­man waste.

At­tor­neys were given two hours to try to work out a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion. If they don’t, Carter said he plans to bar­rel for­ward with a hear­ing that could last days and in­clude a visit to the en­camp­ment.

Carter chal­lenged those in his court­room to come up with money and lodg­ing af­ter the county moved last month to shut down the en­camp­ment along the Santa Ana River.

He asked why tem­po­rary hous­ing couldn’t be built quickly, when he has seen vil­lages built overnight with U.S. fund­ing in Afghanistan.

“Where is the lead­er­ship to get this done in this county po­ten­tially? Where is the long-term so­lu­tion here?” he asked.

The case is be­ing watched by home­less ad­vo­cates along the West Coast and else­where grap­pling with a rise in home­less­ness caused in part by soar­ing hous­ing costs, rock-bot­tom va­cancy rates and a roar­ing econ­omy.

The rul­ing will only cover peo­ple liv­ing in the en­camp­ment near the sta­dium that hosts the Los An­ge­les An­gels of Ana­heim, but home­less ad­vo­cates else­where might look to the case to make sim­i­lar claims, ex­perts said.

Or­ange County, home to 3.2 mil­lion peo­ple be­tween Los An­ge­les and San Diego, started telling the home­less last month of­fi­cials were clos­ing the en­camp­ment of tents and tarps and of­fer­ing to store be­long­ings and help find shel­ter.

Home­less ad­vo­cates sued and sought pro­tec­tion from the courts when they heard au­thor­i­ties were go­ing to start cit­ing or ar­rest­ing peo­ple who re­fused to budge.

Carter tem­po­rar­ily blocked of­fi­cials from mak­ing ar­rests.

Dur­ing Tues­day’s hear­ing, he pep­pered ad­vo­cates and county work­ers with ques­tions about pro­grams, poli­cies and bud­gets.

He said he be­lieves Or­ange County has enough money to find a fix and should be spend­ing it.

He also said a clus­ter of cities near the riverbed should help af­ter push­ing the home­less off their streets and side­walks to the county-owned trail.

County Su­per­vi­sor An­drew Do said of­fi­cials have iden­ti­fied land in Santa Ana that might pro­vide a space where tent-dwellers could be moved for the time be­ing.

Since re­lo­ca­tion ef­forts be­gan, about 30 per­cent of tents have been moved, ac­cord­ing to the county.

Work­ers col­lected more than 400 pounds of hu­man waste and more than 2,200 sy­ringes in a two-week pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to court fil­ings by county at­tor­neys.

In this Dec. 19, 2017, file photo, two po­lice of­fi­cers, Eric Meier (right) and Cur­tis Bynum from the Ana­heim Po­lice Depart­ment’s home­less out­reach team walk through a home­less en­camp­ment set up out­side An­gel Sta­dium to hand out fly­ers about the com­mu­nity out­reach day in Ana­heim. AP PHOTO/JAE C. HONG

In this Jan 22 file photo, Or­ange County Sher­iff’s deputies tell peo­ple they need to be­gin he process of pack­ing up along the Santa Ana riverbed in Ana­heim. Home­less res­i­dents and their ad­vo­cates are ex­pected to ar­gue in U.S. court Tues­day that Or­ange County can’t re­move them from a riverbed bike trail with­out ad­e­quate hous­ing op­tions. Of­fi­cials say they’ve of­fered shel­ter beds and hous­ing. BILL ALKOFER/THE

OR­ANGE COUNTY REG­IS­TER VIA AP

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