Homeless Advocates Shame Supervisors for Actions at Riverbed

Workers clear out a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River on Feb. 8, in a screenshot of a Facebook live stream by Danny Somerville.

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A stream of angry residents showed up to the county Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to demand that supervisors stop the evictions of homeless people who are camped along the Santa Ana riverbed until housing options are available.

Advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, have been protesting the county’s actions to evict people from the riverbed as part of a project to replace a homeless encampment with boulders and sand for public works projects.

And in recent days attorneys with the ACLU and other groups have filed lawsuits to stop the evictions and seizures of property. The scene at the supervisors’ meeting, with 18 people speaking during the public comment portion, is yet another indication that this issue will not be dying down soon.

Among the speakers was Atty McLellan, a student at Chapman University, who said she and other students are “outraged” at how county officials are treating homeless people at the riverbed. “It’s just another lucid attempt to try to hide the growing homelessness problem in Orange County,” she said.

Officials have been seizing people’s property when they’re away accessing food and medical treatment, advocates say, with new county fencing requiring disabled people to walk a mile to the nearest opening to leave the encampment.

“Our clients are treated with less respect and have less security than the pile of boulders” that have been placed there, said Sabyl Landrum, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County.

The county crews are working at a section of the riverbed between Chapman and Orangewood avenues, in the city of Orange. The people who were once camped there have either moved to the other side of the river or further down, away from the county workers, a Voice of OC reporter observed Tuesday afternoon.

There has been a palpable sense of confusion in recent days, as activists, spectators, reporters, workers and sheriff’s deputies visited the riverbed with no one seeming to know what will happen next.

Under the bridge at Chapman Avenue, some people continue to camp in the dry riverbed itself, with a path of wooden pallets acting as a makeshift bridge over a large pool of water to the rocky bank.

At the supervisors’ meeting, advocates said supervisors should stop the evictions until they make more serious progress in their plan to end homelessness, which calls for expanding permanent affordable housing with support services. Supervisors have devoted very little county discretionary spending toward the effort, they said.

“It is shameful what you’re allowing” to happen in the riverbed, said Anaheim resident Jeanine Robbins. She said she called the office of Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who represents her area, last week and was assured he would get back to her by the end of the week. But that didn’t happen, despite her follow-up calls, she said.

“I live in his area, and I cannot get [a hold] of my representative,” Robbins said. “The public is quickly losing faith in this board.”

Despite the comments from their constituents, none of the five supervisors – who were all either present at the meeting, or in Nelson’s case participating by phone – responded to their concerns. The only reaction was stern warnings from Chairwoman Michelle Steel to audience members, telling them not clap for the speakers.

In their response to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU Friday, county officials dispute claims that their fencing has trapped homeless people, and Nelson has called such claims “dishonest” and “ridiculous.”

The case is now before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who was scheduled to decide Thursday morning whether to issue an emergency restraining order against the county. That hearing, however, was cancelled Wednesday amid talks between the ACLU and the county.

Meanwhile, the county officials are facing a second lawsuit over their handling of the riverbed evictions, which was filed Monday by attorneys Carol Sobel, Brooke Weitzman, and others.

The suit, on behalf of Tammy Shuler and other homeless residents of the riverbed, argues that the county has illegally “seized personal property and largely destroyed it without an opportunity for the rightful owner to reclaim it,” in violation of rulings by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The suit alleges that when the county seizes property, the county requires its owner to travel 22 miles away to a location in Lake Forest to pick it up. And the pick-up center “is only open one hour on one day a week, and then only by prior arrangement.”

Weitzman told supervisors Tuesday that the county’s notice posted in riverbed “has the wrong address” for where to pick up property. “This is unreasonable and inhumane,” she said.

(Click here to read the second lawsuit.)

Sobel, the lead attorney in the suit, is known for challenging local government actions against homeless people and winning. She was a lead attorney in the historic Jones v. City of Los Angeles case, in which the 9th Circuit ruled that it was unconstitutional for the city to punish homeless people for sleeping on the street when shelter beds were unavailable.

She also represented homeless people in a case that led to a 2012 ruling by the 9th Circuit that placed restrictions on government’s ability to seize homeless people’s possessions.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • OhSeeUcry

    Housing options for people who do not and cannot make the grade with housing restrictions…cant smoke, cant drink, cant screw, cant have a dog, cant store stolen crap from surrounding neighborhoods… fight for someone worth fighting for snowflakes….

  • disqus_rWJlZbjRAM

    Where is the OC CEO?

  • Sisu54

    ACLU should get sued for supporting non permitted development in the river, floodplain and floodway that violates the Federal Clean Waters Act and EPA regulations and laws and US ACOE permits along with the OC DPW and the cities of Anaheim and Orange. The US ACOE should withhold flood control grant funding until the non permitted developments are removed.

    Let the river overflow and flood the two communities and then maybe the county and cities will smarten up.

    The county DPW won’t toss anyone out because they don’t have a MOU in place with the county sheriffs office.

    Governor Brown should do what a Massachusetts Governor Weld did and abolish the counties to save money.

    • Roberto

      The “developments” in question are tents and tarps. Use common sense when arguing your point and more people will take you seriously.

  • Jacki Livingston

    Welcome to Trump’s ‘Murica. Now they don’t even have to fake human decency, anymore. These homeless residents are dreaming. There is a Social Services building a few blocks from there, where they could easily make assistance, as well as their belongings, available. The failure ARTIC building could be useful here, but that would make too much sense. Steel has delusions of being Ivanka Trump, clearly. The whole lot is a bunch of heartless, souless evil trolls, who care nothing about the people of the county. I watched them ignore elderly veterans and disabled, people on life support, being robbed, violated, killed and horrifically treated by nursing homes owned by organized crime scum that donate to their campaigns. Do any of you really think they are going to care any more about the dirty, homeless folks? Seriously? This is a gang of five organized criminals, and VoC and all the fake outrage is just a show, covering for them. They have the proof to bury these crooks, and do nothing. VoC is to the Cabal of Evil Five what Fox News is to the Trump Regime. Get used to it and stop whining about it.

    • LFOldTimer

      Now you’re blaming Trump for 8 years of neglect by the Obama administration?

      Maybe if Bozo the Nobel Peace Prize recipient would have used some of the money we spent dropping hundreds of thousands of bombs on 7 ME nations for 8 years and slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the process (that went unreported in the media) on the homeless we wouldn’t have a thousand or more camping out on the Civic Center library grass.

      Get over your puerile Trump butthurt. He won fair and square. 30 states to Hillary’s 20. And he’s actually delivering on his promises – something Bozo failed to do.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Trump isn’t fair or square. He’s pure scum, and his lemmings are now emboldened to give up any pretence of decency or civility. Fortunately his house of cards is collapsing under the weight of his ignorance and ego. And Obama delivered on his promises, despite being hampered by the laziest, most treasonous Congress in history. Trump is about to lose his wife, his insiders, his job and his freedom. I am not butthurt, I am busy planning my Trump Impeachment Party. Think I’ll serve tiny little orange weenies. He’s not my President, and, fortunately, CalExit has the numbers for secession. I was looking forward to the Kennedy/Obama ticket for 2020, but Western America will have fine leaders, too.

        • LFOldTimer

          If the whiners in the media and the dem party keep harming the nation by their little butthurt fake news petty attacks on the President it will eventually backfire. The dems will lose even more seats in the House and Senate in 2018 and end up with even more egg on their face (if that’s possible). And Trump would be a shoo-in for another 4 year term. The Trump haters are behaving like little snotty nosed whining brat sore losers. Grow the F up. Stop putting your spoiled egos above the best interests and security of the nation.

          Whatever idiot liberal in the Intel Community leaked the classified phone call between a US official and a foreign government should be prosecuted and tried on espionage charges. That was an egregious crime that put the national security of the country at grave risk. It endangered the lives of all Americans. Reprehensible. It also had the potential to place foreign governments in very precarious positions that could result in full-on nuclear attacks. So if Trump is on the phone w/ high-level North Korean government officials negotiating a nuclear weapon truce will his conversations be made public too?

          Oh, and your claim that CalExit will succeed is yet more hilarious fake news. California would turn into a 3rd world piece of dog squeeze w/o the resources of the rest of the union. Imagine if Oroville Dam collapsed and Jerry ‘Space Cadet’ Brown couldn’t run to Uncle Sugar for manpower and a financial bailout. lol. Without the backing of the Feds the goofball libs in the State legislature would run California right off the side of the cliff. Anyone who would vote for CalExit has a major mental deficit.

          • Jacki Livingston

            There is nothing about DumpTrump that is in the best interests of this country. This is a sub-man, devoid of any humanity or decency, not to mention integrity or moral courage. He is a spouse abuser, and a sleaze, but putting that aside, he is completely incompetent. He wants to force minorities, women and everyone to some ridiculous black and white Ozzie and Harriett version of America that never really existed. He appoints the most racist, evil and incompetent people to do jobs that they are not able to do. I applaud whoever leaked that call. Someone needs to show what sausage they are making in the kitchen. Trump and Pence are a disaster for anyone who values freedom and real values. I love how the right was chanting “lock her up” about Clinton, but now? Not so much. Hypocrisy at it’s most blatant.

            The fact is, California doesn’t need those losers. We contribute billions every year to the federal pig trough, and yet our voice, our votes, it means nothing. Some backwater yahoo in Podunk, Minnesota, his vote counts more than us. We support all of the red states, all of the idiots who swallow the Trumpian Koolaid. Well, enough. We have the sixth largest economy IN THE WORLD. We don’t need those losers. With states like WA, OR, HI and CO begging to come with us? We will split this failed experiment nation and let the losers, haters, racists and scum all just wallow in their self delusional bull with their fuhrer. Donald Trump is illegitimate, and he will go down in history as the worst POTUS in history, and as the man who brought about the end of The United States of America. California will be fine, we will prosper without the dead weight of Trump’s brain dead ‘Murica.

          • LFOldTimer

            Rasmussen just reported that Trump has a 55% approval rating. The people like his no-nonsense approach. About the only ones who don’t like Trump are the pinks hats and friends of illegal alien felons and all the foreign nations that have been taking us for a ride under the non-leadership of Obozo for the last 8 years. Meh.

            You should watch his press conference from today. You might learn something new. I love the way he demeans the media and calls out Crap News Network (CNN).

            Hopefully Jeff Sessions is working on the Hillary indictments. For all the crimes she committed she oughta be turning big rocks into small rocks for the next 30 years.

            It’s going to be a big week next week for Trump. He’ll have new EO issued to keep terrorists out of the country and keep our fellow Americans safe, unlike Obozo. EO’s that the leftist judges won’t be able to suspend from the bench.

  • OCservant_Leader

    “Let them eat cake”…said the Five OC BOS…and “Don’t speak for more then ONE minute peasants”. said Empress Steel.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Well, we all know how that ended the first time around. They are the few, we are the many, and they can’t fire or intimidate all of us.

  • verifiedsane

    The OC supervisors = five feckless monkeys sitting on their thrones acting as hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil, statuettes striking a pose…

    • Jacki Livingston

      I just wish they would throw feces at each other. At least they would be entertaining.

      • verifiedsane

        They were to busy throwing faces at the citizenry of OC….

  • LFOldTimer

    “Despite the comments from their constituents, none of the five supervisors – who were all either present at the meeting, or in Nelson’s case participating by phone – responded to their concerns.”

    That pretty much says it all. It was the equivalent of all 4 board members present raising their middle fingers to the audience at the end of public comments.

    If there is a single leader in the bunch you need to organize about 250 homeless people and have all of them attend the next board meeting.

    And why isn’t the new OC Homeless Czar, Susan Price, making public comments on this matter? Isn’t that the reason we’re paying her? To act as a liaison between the homeless and the county? Where the h*ll is she? Hiding with Rusty Kennedy?

    • David Zenger

      In OC, expensive hiring is the gesture. Nobody anticipates results and no one is disappointed.

      • LFOldTimer

        A replay of former OIR Director Stephen Connolly.

      • OCservant_Leader

        It was a big PR story with lots of fanfare when they hired the new Czar…now she’s MIA during the biggest homeless crisis the BOS has created to date?

        Who’s her boss? The CEO or Super-Ace EA Director Steve Franks? Can we ask?

        Is she muzzled somewhere? Relegated to a window-less office making copies?

        • Jacki Livingston

          More likely working on Toddy’s ridiculous run for DA next year.

  • David Zenger

    What a PR disaster. I wonder whose idea it was.