The following is a press release from an organization unaffiliated with Voice of OC. The views expressed here are not those of Voice of OC.

MEDIA CONTACT

Advocate/Social Worker, Maura Mikulec, MSW, ASW, maura@mikulec.com 949-633-3818

Sept. 22, 2021

#BEHONEST CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED WITH RELEASE OF LETTER FROM ELEVEN FORMER SAN CLEMENTE CALTRANS ENCAMPMENT RESIDENTS

SAN CLEMENTE – HHROC and the South County Homeless Task Force sent a letter to San Clemente and Orange County public officials and service providers on behalf of eleven former San Clemente encampment residents with a simple request: honesty and transparency about the lack of appropriate resources available in the county to meet the needs of unhoused people. This marks the kick-off of HHROC’s #behonest campaign, which supports the campers’ request and seeks to educate public and private community members about the reality of receiving help in Orange County when unsheltered.

On Friday, August 27th, CalTrans dismantled the camp where these unhoused community members lived, many for over a year. As the letter explains, service providers who were present at the sweep offered “resources,” leaving the impression that the housing needs of the campers had been met, or that housing was refused by the campers because they were “service resistant.” However, due to the dire shortage of appropriate housing and services, none of the displaced campers were offered housing. As a result, all but one of the former residents are still living on the streets.

Maura Mikulec of South County Homeless Task Force, a Social Worker and Advocate who does regular outreach with unhoused community members in San Clemente, helped the people who were camping on CalTrans property prepare the letter. “We’ve had many conversations about their needs and struggles to obtain resources,” she said. “But their lived realities rarely make it into the public debate. I was honored to have the opportunity to help them call on their elected officials and service providers to correct the misperception that they remain unhoused because they refuse services.”

In the letter, the CalTrans campers note that San Clemente is their home, permanent affordable housing is scarce and out of reach, mass shelters are not safe options during the pandemic, and that even for people willing to go to a shelter, the one shelter that was supposedly offered to everyone is not in their community and had only three spots for the 25-plus campers.

They also expressed the trauma they experience when faced with hatred and rejection in their community because people don’t know the whole truth.

As Mikulec recounts, “I hear their stories and about their experiences in the community. They suffer the consequences of misinformation every day. Our elected officials and homelessness service providers can do so much good by listening to these folks and committing to being more transparent and affirmatively dispelling these misperceptions.”

Finally, the displaced campers point out that honesty is a critical ingredient for positive change. “How will the system ever be fixed if no one just tells it like it is?” the letter reads. “As long as it looks like it’s all on us, no one will ever see the need to do better.”

Housing is a Human Right OC and South County Homeless Task Force stand with the displaced campers in their call for an honest and transparent public dialogue regarding the lack of appropriate assistance available to them in the county. Furthermore, we challenge officials to invest in evidence-based, effective solutions to house unsheltered community members in Orange County.

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