Orange County Grapples With The Aftermath Of Displacing 700+ Homeless People

Jae C. Hong, FileAP Images

Last month, Orange County finished cleaning up a large homeless camp by the Santa Ana River in California. The mayor of the city appeared satisfied with the operation, calling it a “momentous occasion.”

However, weeks later, the problem is far from being solved. The homeless people, who were homeless before but at least had a camp to live in, are now displaced. Some homeless are staying in motels using temporary vouchers. The Los Angeles Times added that others went to shelters, treatment facilities, and received medical care.

Over $70 million has been set aside to address the homeless problem, according to the OC Register. The county’s plan for the homeless was to transition them from temporary motel housing to homeless camps on county land. Eventually, the homeless would be housed in permanent housing, yet to be built or acquired.

The proposed locations for temporary camps are Huntington Beach, Irvine, and Laguna Niguel. This could have been one solution, however, the county is facing fierce opposition from residents. In fact, the Irvine City Council just voted to sue the county over its homeless housing plans.

The first 200 homeless would go to Irvine, the next 100 would go to Huntington Beach, and the next 100 would go to Laguna Nigel. The mayor of Irvine, Don Wagner, expressed his sentiments.

“I’m very disappointed by the county’s effort to shift a problem to Irvine that it had in Anaheim in the riverbed.”

CBS Los Angeles reported that an Irvine resident, Jennifer Assoud, pointed to the facts of the cleanup efforts to make her point.

“When they cleaned up the Santa Ana riverbed they found over 14,000 needles. These people are not gonna get drug free just because they move to Irvine. Which means that their drug dealers are going to start coming to our neighborhood and I’m not interested.”

Additionally, the Laguna Nigel residents are particularly concerned, because the proposed site for the homeless camp is one block away from a school.

It’s unknown whether officials had previously considered the Laguna Nigel location’s proximity to a school, or the potential backlash from the community when deciding on a course of action.

Santa Ana River homeless camp being investigated by police.
Police investigated the now-dismantled homeless camp by the Santa Ana River.Featured image credit: Jae C. Hong, FileAP Images

If some are wondering why the money is pouring in for homeless people all of a sudden, it’s because county officials were hoarding money allocated to mental health. Over $184 million is available currently, with another $193 million in the new fiscal year. It’s unknown why the money was not being spent for its intended purpose.

Community members have also taken to Twitter to express their concerns and anger.

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