OC Supervisors to Discuss Funding Housing for Riverbed Homeless

SANTA ANA (CNS) - The Orange County Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting today to discuss funding to provide temporary housing for transients who will be displaced from a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana riverbed in the shadow of Angel Stadium.

As part of a legal settlement with homeless advocates, the county is expected to offer vouchers that will allow the homeless to stay for up to 30 days in area motels while authorities work to find them more permanent housing.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do said Tuesday that as many as 400 motel rooms could be made available. The average rate of the motel rooms is $75 to $125 nightly, Orange County Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim told reporters.

Beyond the motel rooms, the county could also add 32 beds to its homeless center in Anaheim, which still hasn't fully opened. There is also room at the center's parking lot to erect tents to provide an additional 60 beds, Do said, adding that a women's shelter in Santa Ana can provide about 100 beds for women fleeing domestic violence for 60 to 90 days.

A fleet yard in Orange can also be used to erect a tent to set up 100 beds; and there is room near the Orange County Registrar of Voters' office on Grand Avenue in Santa Ana for more beds, he said.

In all, the county believes it can provide 700 to 800 more beds, Do said.

The temporary housing is being offered as part of an agreement brokered in part by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter to resolve litigation over county and municipal efforts to clear the Santa Ana riverbed encampment.

Under an agreement with homeless advocates, the county will provide temporary housing and work to find permanent solutions for the homeless, who will have to move out of the encampment by Tuesday.

Homeless advocates had sued over plans to clear the camp, arguing there was nowhere for the transients to go.

Carter toured the encampment early Wednesday morning with county and other officials, who began notifying people living there that they will have to vacate the area next week.

Carter said in court that he wanted to avoid an endless cycle of citing homeless people for trespassing, which leads to them serving jail time since they can't pay the fine, and ending with them returning to the riverbed. Worse, he said, was the possibility that the hundreds along the riverbed would flee to surrounding cities, where they would be cited and arrested, and again find themselves in the ``revolving door of citations.''

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including several homeless people who live on the riverbed, wanted Carter to block the county and the cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Orange from enforcing anti-camping laws along the riverbed and the surrounding cities until alternative housing was found. Last week, Carter granted a temporary restraining order when county officials made it clear to the plaintiffs that they intended to begin enforcing anti-camping and trespass laws along the riverbed.

Orange County Catholic Worker, the main plaintiff in the lawsuit, argued that county officials have failed for years to provide affordable housing for the area's needy and that its homeless shelters are overcrowded.

Orange County officials, however, said they have plenty of beds available. The problem, they said, is that many transients have refused outreach services, choosing to live on the streets rather than abide by the rules at shelters, such as abstaining from drugs and alcohol.

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