A federal judge in California has ruled that a large Santa Ana homeless encampment must be cleared by early next week, leading to significant local concern regarding the fate of roughly 400 individuals said to be living in the tent city when the order was announced.
Orange County officials have expressed an interest in reopening the area for hiking and other public activities, leading to a ruling by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter that mandates the encampment must be vacated by Tuesday.
Those still on the premises after that could be arrested for trespassing.
As KCBS reported, more than half of the 1,000 or more transients who lived in the riverbed community at its peak had already been relocated, often with the help of area social workers.
The hundreds who remained then became the subject of debate and ultimately a compromise between the court and advocacy groups that will provide those being evicted with temporary housing.
Per the agreement, homeless individuals will be given an opportunity to stay at a local shelter with access to health care for as long as those resources remain available.
After that, reports indicate transients will be offered vouchers for food and lodging at a motel.
The agreement followed lawsuits from advocacy groups concerned that the plan to close the camp would leave the homeless with no other options.
According to Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Carrie Braun, other resources will be made available, including transportation to their new temporary housing.
Social workers and staff from the public works department are on hand this week to clear the area of occupants and debris.
Debra Bolton is one of many locals pleased to see order restored to her neighborhood.
“It has just gone unchecked for so long, and for people who live in the area, our places were less valuable,” she said. “I feel bad for the homeless people, but I’m glad they’re clearing it out.
The Orange County Register reported that plans to clear the 2-mile stretch of tents had been postponed for several weeks before the final order was handed down.
Early Tuesday morning, just minutes after Carter lifted the order that had kept the encampment open on an interim basis, a long line of transients were reportedly standing in the cold as they waited for the vouchers they had been promised.
Officials say at least 100 homeless people left the tent city on Tuesday alone.
Over the past week, at least 340 people had been relocated to motels, shelters or other facilities. According to court records, the county is in the process of leasing an additional 100 motel rooms, enough space for nearly 300 people to live for six months.
Carter, who toured the camp last week, said in his recent ruling that the time had come to act.
“There’s nothing good about moving slowly on this,” he said.
As for those who choose to disregard the order, the judge said his is “not sympathetic” to their situation.
“People have had plenty of notice,” he said.
While Carter expressed urgency in clearing the encampment, Braun shared a different objective for law enforcement.
“I think progress will be slow and methodical,” she said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.