Tentative Deal Reached In Santa Ana River Homeless Suit

Tentative Deal Reached In Santa Ana River Homeless Suit
At judge’s urging, sides reach deal over Southern California homeless
nStepping over syringes and feces, federal judge David O. Carter walked briskly Wednesday with an entourage of government officials and lawyers along a bike trail by the Santa Ana River in Southern California, passing dozens of homeless tent-dwellers who are now looking for him to help them find a new place to live.

Carter spoke with people living at the encampment about a plan he is overseeing to move them Tuesday into county-provided motel rooms and other short-term housing.

“It’s going to be done as humanely as possible,” he told a pair of homeless women who approached him. “But you’ve got to be prepared to move.”

The visit came a day after Carter told Orange County officials in his courtroom that they need to give the homeless a place to go before forcing them to leave the two-mile (3.2 kilometer) long riverbed encampment that has swelled in recent years to include hundreds of people.

Authorities announced plans to close the encampment last month and were pursuing the effort until they were sued by advocates who said the tent-dwellers had no place to go after police in nearby cities forced them from streets and sidewalks to the riverbed.

After Tuesday’s court hearing, county officials agreed to provide 400 motel rooms and other short-term housing to those evicted from their trailside digs.

FILE – in this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Denise Lindstrom, a 49-year-old homeless woman, sits in a wheelchair with tearful eyes in front of a moving truck in an homeless encampment on the Santa Ana River trail in Anaheim, Calif. The truck was provided by a nonprofit organization to help homeless people recycle to pay for their storage as the city plans to shut down the encampment. Homeless residents and their advocates are expected to argue in U.S. court Tuesday, Feb. 13, 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. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The case is being watched by advocates in many West Coast cities grappling with a rise in homelessness and encampments amid soaring housing costs.

FILE – in this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Denise Lindstrom, a 49-year-old homeless woman, sits in a wheelchair with tearful eyes in front of a moving truck in an homeless encampment on the Santa Ana River trail in Anaheim, Calif. The truck was provided by a nonprofit organization to help homeless people recycle to pay for their storage as the city plans to shut down the encampment. Homeless residents and their advocates are expected to argue in U.S. court Tuesday, Feb. 13, 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. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
At judge's urging, sides reach deal over Southern California homeless
At judge’s urging, sides reach deal over Southern California homeless

It isn’t the first visit that Carter, who is in his 70s, has made to the county-owned trail that runs past the stadium where the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play.

Carter said county officials “have the power to move people” out of the riverbed, but he has the authority to make sure it’s done in a “humane” manner guaranteeing the constitutional rights of the transients. He also said he wanted to avoid an endless cycle of citing homeless people for trespassing, which would have them do time in jail since they couldn’t pay the fine, and then they would return to the riverbed. Worse, he said, is that the hundreds along the riverbed would flee to surrounding cities, where they would be cited and arrested there and again be in the “revolving door of citations.”

He walked through the encampment during an earlier lawsuit and has told attorneys he didn’t want to waste time looking at their photos when he could see the area for himself.

Known for an unconventional style that includes hauling officials into his courtroom and putting them on the spot, Carter is nudging both sides toward a resolution. He asked them to draft an agreement on Wednesday, and said he’d be available for questions until midnight.

“They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people; they’re the frickin’ lowest of our low,” Salcido said on a recording made by a student. “I don’t understand why we let the military guys come over here and recruit you at school. We don’t let pimps come in the school.”

Carter walked quickly during the four-hour tour, forcing lawyers to rush to keep pace. The judge peppered county workers with questions about bathroom access after pointing out a urine-filled water bottle, and about accommodations for disabled people after speaking with a 36-year-old man in a wheelchair who said he was veteran and is battling cancer.

Mayor Gustavo Camacho called it “bullying, arrogant and aggressive behavior.” The council can’t force Salcido from his post but Camacho introduced a motion to censure Salcido, which would bar him from city committees and appointments, and to ask him to resign from the council.

“There’s going to be people to help you,” Carter told Shane Allen. Arrangement were made later in the day for Allen to be moved to a motel room.

Deal reached on relocating evicted California homeless
Deal reached on relocating evicted California homeless

A short time later, Carter walked into the largely dried-out riverbed, retrieved a discarded plastic water jug and ordered county officials to clean up the area or he would call in environmental groups to do the work.

Homeless advocates and officials are still sorting out details involving longer-term housing, and other arrangements have yet to be discussed. However, people on both sides of the case said Carter had moved things along.

Judge Forces Sides To Find Solution For California Homeless

“It’s a definite fulcrum to force all parties to compromise a little bit,” said Kris Murray, a councilwoman in Anaheim, another defendant in the lawsuit.

Still, some people living along the riverbed said they don’t know what the future will hold.

Lori Werner, 41, said she would gladly move to a motel room next week. But with her husband in jail and her children taken from her over drug use, she doesn’t know where she would go next.

Working at the demand of a federal judge, public officials and homeless advocates have reached an agreement providing motel rooms and other shelter for homeless people who are being kicked out of an encampment in an Orange County riverbed.


Posted in Santa Ana