On Monday in Anaheim, California, Orange County officials will begin to dismantle a Disneyland-area tent city of about 700 homeless people who have created an environmental crisis along a riverbed.
They will leave behind tons of trash and hazardous waste along the Santa Ana River channel which feeds into the ocean next to multi-million dollar homes in Newport Beach. The camp stretches 1.4 miles. On the north end, only a chain link fence separates the camp from Anaheim Stadium, where the Angels baseball team plays. Disneyland is two miles west.
“I have a riverbed that has a very specific purpose — it’s to protect Orange County from flooding, it’s to carry great amounts of water right to the ocean,” Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer recently told Los Angeles’ KFI-AM640. “We use that riverbed to recharge our groundwater basin, I can’t have biohazard and waste and needles and syringes and blood products and Hepatitis A issues in my riverbed.”
Crime is also a concern: since September, 498 arrests have occurred for offenses such as rape, assault, robbery, weapons possession and narcotics violations, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept.
And in a period when wildfires have ravaged California — many caused by homeless cookouts — a bigger disaster is just waiting to happen, Spitzer said.
Recently another encampment was dismantled to the north and authorities found some unusual items: solar panels, car batteries, frayed extension cords hacked into nearby electrical sources and inverters producing electricity. A big fire once occurred in the area when a propane patio heater was filled with gasoline, setting off an explosion, Spitzer said.
That camp of 400 closed in October, producing 315 tons of trash, 4,000 pounds of biohazard materials and 4,600 syringes, Spitzer said. Cleanup cost the county $20,000.
The ACLU has opposed camp closures because the inhabitants will likely just be homeless in another area.
“The reason they are (in the camp) in the first place is Orange County only has enough shelter for half the homeless people,” said ACLU analyst Eve Garrow. “That doesn’t include housing, which there is none. There is literally no affordable housing for people.”
Garrow said the county’s Section 8 lists have 90,000 names and it takes up to 10 years to receive housing.
Homeless camps have steadily grown over the past several years, prompting run-ins with work crews tasked with regular maintenance and repairs of the area. This prompted a federal lawsuit last year by several occupants who claimed their belongings were illegally seized and destroyed. A federal judge has since issued a restraining order requiring the county to give advance notice of any cleanup and to store belongings of displaced persons for up to 90 days.
This time the process will apparently go more smoothly as the county is prepared to catalog and store personal items, shelter pets in kennels and offer bus rides to anyone who wants to relocate to one of several armories operated by the county, said county spokesperson Jennifer Nentwig.
The project will take up to three months to complete as the surface soil will need to be removed and overdue repairs to the channel will be conducted.
Upon completion, the area will have a nighttime curfew enforced by patrol. Before the homeless took over the area, the channel’s paved shoulder offered a scenic route for walking or biking, and cyclists trained on the 50-mile continuous trail from the mountains to the beach.
Homelessness has increased on the West Coast by a massive amount. Warm weather and generous benefits to non-residents have beckoned people from across the country who hear about a homeless utopia through word of mouth and online, a Santa Ana homeless man told The Daily Wire. He lived in a camp of about 100 that cropped up in recent years in a plaza only steps away from Orange County Superior Court.
A study last year by The Associated Press found that California, Oregon and Washington had a combined homeless population of 168,000 – an increase of 19,000 from two years ago. The increase has contributed to a Hepatitis A outbreak in California numbering 688 people. It started in San Diego’s homeless community and spread up the state, according to the California Dept. of Public Health. Orange County has not had any such cases.