Monday I wrote about the ongoing battle over what to do with hundreds of homeless people in Orange County, California. After a large encampment was cleared out last month, many of the homeless were given one-month hotel vouchers which are now expiring. The judge overseeing the situation called on the county to find a more permanent solution and the county agreed to spend up to $90 million to do so. But that’s where the plan hit a roadblock.
Initially, the county planned to place up to 400 homeless people on empty land in 3 different cities: Huntington Beach, Irvine, and Laguna Niguel. Instantly, there were protests from local residents demanding that no new tent cities be allowed to pop up near their schools and parks. That intensified when word circulated that all 400 homeless might wind up in Irvine because of a previous zoning agreement. Yesterday, the OC supervisors voted to scrap the plan involving those three cities while hundreds of people gathered outside in protest. From the OC Register:
Bowing to public backlash, Orange County supervisors on Tuesday rescinded their recent plan that could have created emergency homeless shelters in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel to house up to 400 people.
But they’re likely to replace it within weeks with a second proposal to shelter the homeless in yet-to-be-selected local cities.
The board’s unanimous vote, which undid its March 19 approval of a three-city homeless shelter plan, came at the most crowded supervisorial meeting in recent memory. In attendance were a dozen leaders of those cities and hundreds of jeering residents, including a coordinated legion from Irvine that chartered as many as 20 buses to come voice their united opposition to the project.
Hundreds more anti-shelter protestors rallied outside the meeting, chanting, “No tent city!” In all, police estimated nearly 2,000 people were on the scene.
The LA Times has reactions from some local residents upset about the plan to move the homeless into their towns:
Angela Liu of Irvine said she did not know where the homeless should go. But it should not be in her city, she said.
“They need to put them somewhere, maybe somewhere else in California,” said Liu, who owns a legal services company. “I really don’t know where they can go. But Irvine is beautiful and we don’t want it to get destroyed.”…
Kelvin Hsieh, a tech company manager who has lived in Irvine since 1996, said that he and fellow demonstrators were compassionate, but “we just don’t want to create more problems.”
“They know that we are an affluent city with lots of immigrants, so they think we will automatically welcome other people,” he said before the supervisors’ vote. “They don’t tell us how they will solve potential safety and environmental issues when they bring strangers here.”
If you’ve seen any of the videos of the former encampment along the river, these are not all people with serious mental problems. Some of them are still young and relatively healthy, though it seems likely many have drug or alcohol problems that need to be addressed if they are going to get a free place to live.
So what comes next? There is already some discussion about placing people in a closed state facility in Costa Mesa. Authorities in Costa Mesa have already called an emergency meeting to discuss that plan. This CBS LA report gives a sense of how worked up people are about this in usually sedate Orange County.