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Orange County ordered homeless people living along the Santa Ana River near the Honda Center to get out by Monday or be removed as part of a public works project to fence off the area.
The removal comes less than two weeks after the county entered a $750,000 contract with the non-profit City Net to provide services to homeless people camped on the bank of the Santa Ana River near Angel Stadium.
“Orange County Public Works will be conducting maintenance and/or flood control project activities in this section of Flood Control District property,” read the notice posted July 12 near the Honda Center homeless camps. “All individuals and property must be removed from the Work Area identified on this Notice by the [July 17] Scheduled Work Date.”
If those ordered to leave join the camps south of Katella Avenue and around Angel’s Stadium, they will be in the area covered by the City Net contract.
Several tents near the Honda Center were still firmly in place Sunday afternoon, despite the Monday removal notice.
Eveline Hurlburt, 66, who lives in the restricted area said she did not know she had to leave and must now find a place to stay.
Jamie Cooper, 41, said she has lived on the riverbank for awhile and on the west bank for less than three weeks but does not like the area.
“I don’t like people and I don’t like the things they do… We’re probably some of the people who have been out here the longest and kind of had rules and stuff,” Cooper said, but recent homeless arrivals have made the area rougher.
Philip Vasquez, 42, lives on the eastern side of the riverbed, where people are allowed to stay according to the county notice. He said he has noticed people from the prohibited area are moving to his side.
According to the City Net contract, the services the county will provide to those camped near Angel Stadium include hydration stations, mobile showers and updated calendars of available services in the area, with an“ultimate goal” to “relocate individuals to more appropriate housing.”
The project does not currently include portable restrooms, a service which public speakers have been requesting at supervisors’ meetings for months.
City Net will provide “basic necessities” to homeless occupants of the riverbed area between Chapman and Katella avenues.
At their June 6 meeting, the Board of Supervisors authorized County Executive Officer Frank Kim to award and execute the contract with a homeless services provider without the competitive bidding process commonly used for procuring services.
The board said the situation was an emergency and chose to exempt the contract from the usual rules. The agreement went into effect July 1 and will terminate December 31.
The county Public Works project will install permanent security fencing and a gate on the west side of the Santa Ana River stretching 2300 feet north from Katella Avenue to the railroad bridge. The gate and fence likely will prevent homeless camps from returning to the Honda Center side of the riverbank.
Public Works will place the fencing “to control access to Flood Control District Property in the area,” according to the posted notice.
The notice states people remaining in the area after Monday may be cited and prosecuted for trespass. People who leave personal property on or after Monday may also be cited and prosecuted for nuisance.
The non-profit Illumination Foundation is a subcontractor in the agreement between City Net and the county. The contract will be worth a total $750,000 with $720,000 allocated for payment and the remaining $30,000 made available for “unanticipated expenses or needs that are identified” during the project, according to an email from spokeswoman Carrie Braun.
According to the contract, it is anticipated that $290,000 will be allotted to the Illumination Foundation to create triage centers, provide services including short-term housing, and pay the salaries of their workers.
City Net will receive a total of $430,000 which will go toward materials and supplies, and program management, with the largest amount of the funds assigned for support services and salaries and benefits, totaling $110,000 and $250,000 respectively.
Among the services provided will be relocation, pet care, basic necessities and coverage of relocation, move-in, and program fees for local services.
The county still is considering placing portable restrooms near the flood control channel according to a statement released July 10, though the contract did not explicitly mention latrines as part of the “basic necessities” provided.
Supervisors previously have come out against the idea of restrooms near the riverbed, claiming their “main priority is to provide homeless individuals with a safe and stable environment off the streets,” according to board Chairwoman Michelle Steel.
“Providing bathrooms creates other problems and detracts from the primary goal of getting individuals off the street and into safer living conditions,” Steel said in a statement released by the county July 10.
Members of the public also are alleging the supervisors violated the state’s open meeting law by discussing and deciding during a closed session not to put portable restrooms at the riverbed encampments.
As Voice of OC’s reported, Terry Francke, general counsel to the open government nonprofit Californians Aware and Voice of OC’s open government and public records consultant, claimed there was “unlawful secrecy” during the June board meeting.
“The Brown Act limits the events that can trigger a closed session to discuss a litigation threat, and none of them seems to fit here,” said Francke in an email.
Homeless activist and lawyer Mohammed Aly submitted a demand letter to the board alleging it violated the Brown Act “when it secretly deliberated and acted” against placing restrooms on the riverbed.
In his letter, Aly demanded the board publicly disclose any decisions made during closed session, formally cancel any votes or actions resulting from the discussion and provide the public with advance notice and an opportunity for comment during a meeting.
Jose Ochoa is a Voice of OC intern. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.