Homeless advocates this week criticized Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring for suggesting the city oust homeless people from parks by turning the spaces into dog parks, calling the suggestion “mean-spirited” and “counterproductive.”

The criticism came after published news reports and video of Kring’s remarks circulated on social media. Kring was responding to residents who attended a City Council meeting earlier this month and complained that Twila Reid park had become a de facto homeless encampment, bringing crime and drugs into the neighborhood.

Kring asked city officials to study turning Twila Reid into a dog park as a way to keep homeless people out. In making her suggestion, she said the police department found that turning La Palma Park into a dog park was effective in pushing out homeless people.

“It’s a social activity. It’s wonderful for the dogs. It’s wonderful for the owners, and it really keeps the homeless out,” Kring said.

Kring also had called on a local church to stop providing food for homeless people at Twila Reid park. She said the church should instead bus them out of the park and feed them elsewhere. The church’s charity work at the park was trashing the place, she said.

The Anaheim Poverty Task Force, a group of faith-based leaders dedicated to helping homeless people, stated in a press release that Kring’s suggestion “ups the ante of sheer callousness.”

The Task Force noted that homelessness in the region rose in 2015 by 5 percent, despite better economic conditions. And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that  affordable housing lists are closed and shelters are either full or closed, the statement said.

Orange County is also without a permanent year-round shelter. Local government officials in Anaheim and throughout the county are working on changing that, but have run into stiff resistance from businesses and neighbors at proposed shelter locations.

At this week’s council meeting, a few homeless advocates criticized Kring’s suggestion. But some residents near Twila Reid park also thanked Kring for her comments.

At one point, the councilwoman got into a heated back and forth with R. Joshua Collins, a Christian advocate who supports homeless people, held up a sign saying “dogs b4 people = shame.”

“God condemns a lot of things. But one thing he doesn’t condemn is poverty and homelessness,” Collins said.

Kring shot back, saying that the people around Twila Reid park don’t have the ability to enjoy it because homeless people had taken over, leaving drugs and needles, washing their clothes in the bathroom sinks, and doing “all kinds of bodily functions.”

She denied saying that “a dog park would supplant the homeless,” claiming that all she said was a dog park would help increase activity at the park to reduce crime.

“We need to do something for the people who rightly belong in the park,” Kring said.

Collins replied that it was hateful to say homeless people don’t “rightly belong” at a city park.

“That’s shameful. You’re a bigot,” Collins said.

“I’m not a bigot,” Kring responded.

At that point, Mayor Tom Tait shut down the exchange. But not before Kring got in the last word.

“He attacked me first,” she said.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

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