I visited Maxwell Park yesterday. The scene was reminiscent of the early days of the Santa Ana River Trail encampment. Since visiting the park a month ago, the transient population has grown considerably. I counted nearly 30 tents, along with piles of stuff and a number of barking dogs of various sizes.
Maxwell Park is in District 1, represented by Councilwoman Denise Barnes.
There were no residents enjoying Maxwell Park, which has become the exclusive domain for the homeless campers. There were four Anaheim police officers on hand to provide support for the CityNet caseworkers who made their way through the encampment in an effort to connect the transients with services in hopes of their rejoining the ranks of productive society. The police are also on hand to apprehend transients with outstanding warrants. The obvious reality was Maxwell Park belong to to the transients who occupy it – not the neighborhood residents whose taxes pay for it.
Here’s the view from the homes across Broadway:
More scenes from yesterday:
I had the opportunity to speak with some of those residents of the neighborhood, who provided me with vivid descriptions of life in their neighborhood has been affected by this mushrooming encampment.
One told me how his neighbor and been chased by an unleashed pit bull belonging to a transient camped in the park.
He related how some homeless individuals living in their SUV had parked on his street, shuttling back and forth to Maxwell Park and partying on the street by their vehicle. In the morning, they leave behind the detritus of their revelry, along with plastic bag full of human feces.
Residents said the transients moved their tents the sidewalk after official park hours, clogging the sidewalk all along the park and the branch library. In the morning, they move their tents back into the park.
They’re supposed to leave enough room so the sidewalk is wheel-chair accessible, but as with everything else when it comes to how modern liberal society deals with transients, the law and common sense must give way.
The encampment has grown so large that the night-time tent migration has spilled to the other side of Broadway, filling the sidewalk in front of a nursery and even some homes. Imagine waking up to that sight in front of your home every morning – let alone parents and their kids picking their way along the tent-filled sidewalk on their way to school.
It’s a cat-and-mouse game: the city has drawn a line in the sand to enforce park hours. Otherwise, the encampment will become even more entrenched. As it is, the Maxwell Park homeless encampment is acquiring one of the hallmarks of permanency that characterized the SART encampment: residents told me new arrivals loiter on the sidewalk across Broadway from the park, until one of the park transient comes over to extend an invitation to camp.
While deeply appreciative of their neighbors who have spoken out at city council meetings, the residents with whom I spoke did not want their names used, citing fear of retaliation from transients in the park. They’re also reluctant to speak at council meetings or public meetings themselves due, saying they don’t want to be “demonized” by homeless advocates (i.e. the Robbins and their band).
I reached out to the city regarding the situation at Maxwell Park, and received this comment from Chief Communications Officer Michael Lyster:
“We have heard heartbreaking stories from residents and seen firsthand the impacts on Maxwell Park. This is why we are pursuing additional shelter space in Anaheim. While we are out at Maxwell Park daily, we cannot fully address the issue without having more beds to offer those living in homelessness. Our parks were never meant to serve as living space, and having additional beds will help us restore Maxwell and other public spaces to their intended purposes while also helping get people out of homelessness.”
The residents I spoke with also seemed to understand the city will not be able to meaningfully enforce the anti-camping ordinance until it has supplied the 325 shelter beds (in addition to those available at The Bridges at Kraemer shelter) called for under the settlement agreement overseen by federal Judge David O. Carter. Hence the nightly game of tent shuttling from park to sidewalk and back. Tonight, as a first step, the council will vote on an agreement to purchase a building at 3431 E. La Palma – not for from the Bridges shelter – for a 125-bed, low-threshold shelter. The council will also hold a closed session discussion about potentially purchasing the Piano Store across the street from Bridges, for additional shelter beds.
At the same time, these West Anaheim residents are out of patience and angry at the weird double standard under which those who flout society laws and norms are catered to, while those who live normal, law-abiding, productive lives are penalized.
The nightmarish daily reality afflicting these neighborhoods is the direct result of left-wing social justice warriors employing a distorted understanding of the Constitution and the nature of human rights to bend the legal system in favor of a small segment of society who – due to past and ongoing bad choices – choose to live outside of the law and society.
Under the settlement agreement, the city is supposed to have the additional 325 shelter beds online by January 2019 – and at that point the city can truly enforce the anti-camping ordinance. For residents who live near Maxwell Park, and those who’d like to use is as a park, that day can’t come soon enough.
POSTSCRIPT: Not far away, at the intersection of La Palma and Magnolia, these folks have taken up residence on the sidewalk, by a gas station: