Hundreds of Orange County residents gathered in Santa Ana today to express outrage over a proposed plan to move hundreds of homeless people to temporary shelters in three cities.
In a 4-0 vote, the county quickly scrapped its plan to house several hundred homeless evicted from the Santa Ana River Trail in temporary shelters located in Laguna Nigel, Huntington Beach and Irvine. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett apologized for springing the plan on the cities.
"It's very clear that we had a hasty decision, in a process that we need to fix," Bartlett said. "There has been a lack of clear information and that has caused unnecessary panic. Nothing was approved or built and no homeless were ever relocated to any of the cities."
Critics say the properties were poorly chosen for the tent cities, with one site in Huntington Beach plagued with methane gas issues. Laguna Nigel officials say their plot of land is next to the now shuttered Orange County Courthouse with has issues with both asbestos and mold.
County officials say they believe they will have enough beds to handle the transients after the county-issued-30-day-motel vouchers expires.
Protesters outside of the Hall of Administration chanted "No tent city!" over and over and demanded long-term solutions from the Board of Supervisors to the county's growing homeless problem.
"You want to talk about human rights? Have you ever thought about our human rights?" one resident angrily asked.
The board last week approved a study of a plan to move those evicted from the riverbed from motels to at least three temporary tent-like structures in Huntington Beach, Laguna Nigel, and Irvine. The plan was to house at least 200 at a site in Irvine, with another two opening in Huntington Beach and Laguna Nigel. If more beds were required, then a third site would have been opened near Laguna Nigel's City Hall.
The sites would only have been used if the county's emergency shelters reached capacity.
But Tuesday's vote means it's back to the drawing board for the county in figuring out what to do with the hundreds of homeless individuals cleared out of the Santa Ana Riverbed trail last month. U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing litigation against the county regarding the transients' relocation, will keep a watchful eye on what the Board of Supervisors will do.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said, there's still space for homeless people who are leaving the motel rooms at the end of the month. "We'll continue to try and identify additional bed capacity."
Another meeting held on March 19th, the supervisors also voted to spend $70.5 million earmarked for the mentally ill on beds for transients by constructing a new facility, or renovating existing ones.