When most people think about the city of Anaheim, Disneyland or the Angels baseball team probably comes to mind. But until recently it was also home to one of California’s fastest-growing housing developments: a homeless encampment.
Along a riverbed not far from Angel Stadium, hundreds of vagrants had pitched tents made out of tarps. The affluent among them set up canopies, the kind that are sold in camping stores. Some even had cots. They stored their belongings in suitcases, bins, strollers and shopping carts. Jugs of water and cans littered the area. Dozens of presumably stolen bicycles were piled on top of each other like abstract art.
The camp was cleared in February after locals complained, but the question is where its residents are supposed to go now. Rising vagrancy in Southern California is creating a Catch-22: People don’t want the homeless living on their streets, but they don’t want homeless shelters in their neighborhoods either.
About 75% of Los Angeles’s estimated 55,188 homeless are “unsheltered,” the HUD report says, compared with 5% in New York City. That statistic will surprise few Californians, who have watched homeless encampments proliferate in their state’s city centers, transit stations and riverbeds.
What’s causing the surge? For one thing, skyrocketing rents have made it harder for low-income people to find affordable quarters. Because of regulatory restrictions on development, the demand for housing hugely exceeds the supply. The stock of public and rent-controlled housing is especially limited.
Another apparent culprit is Proposition 47, a 2014 ballot initiative that reduced jail sentences for nonviolent crimes, including shoplifting, theft of less than $950, and drug use. Police officers have reported that they no longer arrest thieves and drug users, since offenders now often get released in short order.
The Orange County government reported clearing 13,950 needles, 404 tons of trash and 5,279 pounds of hazardous waste from the Anaheim encampment. Some 700 riverbed squatters were given 30-day motel vouchers and referred to public services. When the vouchers expired at the end of March, some were able to find beds at crowded makeshift shelters, such as tents in parking lots. Others dispersed to the streets.
Many of the vagrants used the public library’s restrooms to relieve themselves—and to shoot up with heroin, often leaving their needles behind. Residents of the predominantly Hispanic city complain about public safety. The Santa Ana city council has threatened legal action to compel other Orange County cities to care for their fair share of the county’s homeless.
In March, the county’s Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors approved a plan to set up homeless shelters in the upscale cities of Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach. But those cities threatened litigation. Thousands of their residents protested, worried not only about drug use and property crime, but that nearby shelters would hurt their property values. The board withdrew that plan.
Judge David Carter, who is adjudicating a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Orange County’s homeless, has directed the county’s 34 cities to negotiate a solution. “This doesn’t have to be a nice thing,” the judge said. “It just has to be humane and dignified.”
But dignified is in the eye of the beholder. Consider the tug of war taking place in liberal Los Angeles. In 2016 voters approved a $1.2 billion local bond issue to build housing for thousands of homeless people. Yet City Council members must give their nod to any new shelter in their district, and even representatives of low-income communities have opposed such projects.https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-califo ... 1526077852
They can always use Starbucks restrooms..