California has nearly half of all unsheltered people in the United States, according to The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (pdf). Yet the number of homeless people often brings security issues to many local communities.
Orange County Relocates 700+ Homeless People
In late February, authorities relocated more than 700 homeless people who lived along the Santa Ana River trail and moved them to motels and shelters across Orange County. They were provided food and other basic services, and some homeless people were also evaluated by Telecare, a mental health services provider, to see if further assistance was needed.
According to the Orange County Public Works, between Jan. 22 and March 3, nearly 14,000 hypodermic needles were collected, more than 5,000 pounds of hazardous waste, and 404 tons of debris were cleared along a two-mile stretch of trail next to the 5 Freeway from Orange to Ball Road in Anaheim.
Officials Want Safe Neighborhoods, not ‘Skid Row’
“We will not allow Skid Row in Orange County,” said Chairman of County Supervisor Andrew Do in a press release, referring to the downtown Los Angeles area known for its large homeless population.
The county held a press conference on Aug. 30 announcing that new fencing would be built along flood control channels at 24 sites to keep the areas clear and secure.
“We have a right to feel safe in our homes and neighborhoods,” said Do. “This secure fencing will greatly reduce illegal access to the flood control channels and deter homeless encampments in residential neighborhoods.”
Supervisor Do also said that even more improvement sites are planned for the future.
Homeless Arsonist Started 7+ Fires
A homeless arsonist Gustavo Abarca Garcia was found to have started at least seven fires near the city-owned Fisher Park along Santiago Creek in Santa Ana, causing $20,000 in damage. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas filed multiple felony charges against Garcia in July.
“The homeless are often targeted as victims and many of them commit crimes and cause problems in neighborhoods. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office have filed many cases involving the homeless population,” said Rackauckas.
In addition, local residents say that some snatch-and-grab thieves use public access flood control channels to get away.
The implementation of Propositions 47 and 57 in addressing the over-crowded state prison situation has also caused a nearly double-digit increase in California in the number of property crimes such as car burglaries, shoplifting and other thefts, according to the press release.
Synagogue Sues Los Angeles for Fire Starting in Homeless Encampment
A similar case happened in the affluent Bel-Air neighborhood, next to the Getty Center and 405 Freeway. On December 6 of 2017, the Skirball Fire started from the cooking fire of a homeless encampment. Consequently, a synagogue named Leo Baeck Temple sued Los Angeles City and County in August for failing to clear the homeless encampment.
According to court records, the city had received multiple complaints about the dangerous situation, since it was surrounded by trees, bushes, and other vegetation.
The synagogue is seeking more than $25,000 in damages. Six homes were destroyed, a dozen homes and 475 acres of land were damaged, and 700 homes and an apartment building were evacuated because of the Skirball Fire.