Clearing of Santa Ana River Homeless Camp Nearly Complete

Big A encampment scraped AB feat

The herculean task of clearing of the sprawling homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River Trail is expected to be by this evening.

A multi-jurisdictional effort led by the County of Orange began clearing the encampment on Tuesday, February 20 – beginning at Ball Road/Taft Avenue and moving south. By Friday evening, the encampments running along the west bank of the Santa Ana River, and the flagship encampment next to the Big A had been scraped. The “Rampart” section of the encampment between Orangewood and Chapman was expected to be cleared today. Even yesterday, it was a largely depopulated collection of empty tents and strewn with debris drifts.

Since the County began the initial soft-clearing on in late January, 628 individuals have been connected to motel housing by the county Health Care Agency and county contractor City Net.  On Friday, 84 homeless were connected to 60 rooms.

32 homeless people have been connected to shelter in the existing system of care, such as the Bridges at Kraemer and Courtyard homeless shelters – bringing the total number motel-housed or sheltered to 660.

A month ago, the County estimates there were about 500 tents in SART homeless encampment, but as of February 22, only 154 tents remained – a number that excludes those marked by the County as abandoned.

People Respond To Incentives
A key element of the February 14 agreement hammered out by federal Judge David O. Carter between the County and homeless advocate lawyers was furnishing 30-day motel vouchers for the homeless living in the massive squatters camp when the clearing commenced on February 20.

When the agreement was announced, the OC Sheriff’s Department estimates there were between 120 and possibly 200 homeless people left in the encampment.  News of the 30-day hotel vouchers spread rapidly, and by the time the evictions began on February 20, the encampment population had doubled as homeless people who had left returned to claim vouchers. They were joined by new arrivals, encouraged by homeless advocates to take up residence in order to claim motel vouchers.

The new arrivals engendered considerable resentment among the long-time residents of the encampment. One man told complained to this writer on Wednesday that he had come across at least two dozen people he had never seen in the encampment.

The County responded as best it could, using lists of existing encampment residents it had compiled, along with interrogation techniques to identify new arrivals. For example, a suspected new arrival would be asked: “Where is Mary’s Kitchen?” – the nearby non-profit that feeds the homeless and which many encampment residents used as a mailing address. If they didn’t know, it was a good bet they had just shown up in order to claim a 30-day motel voucher.

According to OC Sheriff’s Department personnel, there was considerable intra-camp migration during the week-long clearing. Many if not most of the homeless living in the southernmost section of the camp migrated upriver to claim vouchers, store their stuff and obtain transportation to their respective motels. The “service resistant” – the portion of the SART encampment who steadfastly refuse offers of assistance and services – migrated southward ahead of the advancing County task force, taking up residence in-now abandoned tents. The net effect is the final portion of the encampment population to be removed will be the most service-resistant.

As the statistics released by the County bear out, the homeless who have been living in the encampment hands-down prefer living in a motel for 30 days to going to a shelter where they’d have shelter, a bed and services for several months.  One senior county staffer told this writer earlier in the week that they County had 232 recuperative beds available – and not a single taker from among the hundreds facing impending eviction from the SART homeless camp. The operator of  a local Anaheim non-profit in-patient drug rehab facility was able to convince only single SART resident to enter treatment at the facility.

As he piled his stuff into a bicycle trailer, one homeless man complained to this writer that the motel vouchers were only for 30 days. “What do they expect us to do after that,” he groused. “They don’t give a rat’s ass about us.” Displayed in the see-thru plastic cover of his bicycle pouch was a card from Green on Green Delivery, a nearby cannabis dispensary.

Repairing the Santa Ana River Trail Will Take Months
The SART is a recreational amenity never intended for human habitation. After being the site of a giant transient camp for more than a year, this section of the SART is completely thrashed. The grassy knolls on the section between Katella and Ball are dead and brown.  An astonishing variety of trash and debris and leftover stuff are strewn everywhere.  Used hypodermic needles could be seen on the ground where the encampments stood a few days ago.

Remediation of the 2-mile stretch of the SART will take several months. The County plans to remove at least the top 12 inches of soil, and possibly deeper. Consider that more than 4,000 needles were collected from the SART encampment during the last week of Janaury and the first week of February alone. If anyone is unlucky enough to step on a needle after the SART re-opens, County taxpayers will be on the hook for any litigation. Therefore the County will haveto be exceedily thorough in its remediation efforts.


  1. It took a judge to get it done. Now what happens in 30 days? There have already been problems in the motels with some of the folks (Register a couple of days ago) Now start sending them to family members. Mental health facilities and whatever it takes to keep our city clean and SART clear. At least temporarily thank you Judge Carter.

  2. My name Tim Sullivan. I am a volunteer with a charity focused on homeless issues.

    I can tell you FIRST HAND, this latest series of events is rife with fraud, vouchers are being misused, motel owners are “double dipping” , bartering for drugs is already rampant.

    Rooms are being sublet as “shooting galleries” and food vouchers being sold/traded for drugs.

    Already they are showing up in the slums of Anaheim.

    • I believe you, Tim. You should post this on, and ask the media to investigate. Go to city council and speak against the motel vouchers. The intent was good, but they are far too removed to understand how poorly it all works. It needs to be told. Thank you.

    • No body gives a crap about where these homeless people go, once they leave the riverbed.. Who cares where they go and who cares what they do. Let the other cities and motel owners worry and deal with them. Out of sight out of mind.
      It might be a good idea to send these crackheads to local hotels.. They will damage these places causing the business to go under and go bankrupted.

  3. The slums of Anaheim?

  4. Now you can put down your shotgun and get a good night’s sleep!

  5. What this shows is how serious the problem is. We have temporarily spread the issue to various motels. Might be similar to the old motels on Katella before the remodeling. Also Beach Blvd. What are solutions? How about mandatory drug rehabilitation. Not the for profit version. How about mandatory mental illness treatment not the three day hold. How about prison for those that are criminals. How about relocating back to their families or Home cities or states. Options that will not be accepted and in 30 days we will be back to square one. It has nothing to do with low income housing or having enough beds. Drug addicted will continue using. Criminals will continue and the mentally ill will not improve in unsupervised care. The folks that want help, set them up with jobs whether it is cleaning streets, painting graffiti etc. These are real solutions it giving housing without support.

    • All reasonable questions and thoughts. Unfortunately, established laws, the ACLU and out of control homeless advocates are preventing mandatory mental illness treatment and putting work demands on the homeless for support and care. Advocates have good intentions but they are ineffective and costly solutions. And you may recall, Gov. Brown and his liberal hacks thought up “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” or Prop “57” which redefined criminal act guidelines to provide a get out of jail quicker card for non-violent criminals. I applaud Judge Carter but his actions are tantamount to a band-aid on a compound fracture.

      In one fell swoop, Democrats overturned many previous tough-on-crime measures passed by California voters. It surely wasn’t done for fiscal reasons. Otherwise, Gov. Brown’s worthless and costly already-overbudget super-train plan wouldn’t exist. Seeing that it does, it shows Democrats are oblivious to what voters want. They only care about their wants. It’s no wonder moving homeless, criminals and addicts and mentally ill to motels is quickly turning into a costly cluster-f**k.

      We should make it simple. Help those that truly want help, which is likely a smaller percentage, and get seriously tough on ALL the rest. If that means reassessing parolees maybe sending them back to prison and addicts to jail, at least incarceration costs, come from different budgets and we’ve taken proper steps towards safer streets, parks, and SART. As it stands, when funding runs out for motels, etc., cities and the county will have wasted millions only to be back where they started. That’s what liberals do well, waste money.

      • Very well said Gary Gengler! Remember the Lyndit’s motel disaster when the homeless took it over? Before they could build, they burned it, and took it past it bare bones with vandalism and crime. Peek into the motel rooms in 30 days.

        The advocates made it worse, motels are no place to “house homeless” the advocates homes are!

  6. Thank you Larry. It’s nothing new to relocate prisoners and transients to motels with vouchers. It’s not the answer. It’s a band aid.

  7. Here is a list of test questions to determine if the people asking for vouchers were really from the riverbed and are entitled to the 30 day voucher or are from somewhere else and just trying to get free vouchers:

    Q: Where can I get some meth around here?
    A: I don’t know

    Q: Do you know anyone who will trade a $600 mountain bike for a gram of black ?
    A: Jake down at civic center is trading right now.

    Q: Where can I get a dove of fire ? (I.e $20 bag of heroin)
    A: Denise who was staying at Orangewood is now at Motel 6.
    Result: This is a former tent city riverbed occupant because he knows where a prior riverbed dealer is now staying. OK TO GIVE VOUCHER

  8. And now 99 sart occupants at the baymont motel on beach, free grocerie vouchers, and they are COMPLAINING!!! Let’s just remember how they took care of SART and the respect for the environment they had there, and see how they leave the motels.

    What a joke. To the true homeless: take the help. Be thankful, get all the services offered, find a mentor, let them help you. We know you want help.
    To the others: When you get out of the free room and board, move to the uninhabited remote areas of the desert, start a colony if you want, enjoy your tents, drugs, and crime. Just do it elsewhere, please.

  9. GOBSMACKED that those living in the motels free, for a month and with food provided, have the audacity to complain. This shows how upside down Anaheim and the entire state has become.

    Get help for those that want an honest hand up
    But, stop the gravy train. It is not helping to enable criminal/unhealthy activities.

  10. 99 vouchers went to the Baymont? You’ve got to be kidding me. Once again, West Anaheim gets screwed. Why are a majority of the vouchers in Anaheim, Buena Park, Stanton? How many went near Spitzer’s house?
    This is BS.

  11. It's never enough

    It will never ever be enough. Every severe has been offered, free phones, groceries, motels, the list goes on and on. I do feel for the very, VERY small percentage who take the help and gratefully move on and try to do better. The mentallc disabled should be given a test, if unable to achieve the results, they should be lucky enough to taken to a facility to be taken care if. Not leave that decision to them. They aren’t stable. The drug addicted should be forced into rehab or jail, with all of their “pets” being checked for their micro chips and returned to the owners.
    The ones making the decisions that have gotten us into this mess should be jailed too, right next to them, it’s atrocious.

  12. Be fair and honest

    OC Register is very baised, over and over again. It’s really obvious what they are doing with every article regarding the transients. Same as the Voice of OC…the factual consistency of the Anaheim Blog and Mathew Cunningham needs to be recognized and rewarded for the honest and fair information.

    Thank you.

    • To be fair and honest: I will second that.

      • Be fair and honest

        Thank you. And here is a quote from the ocean registers article:

        “That first night, her employees took up a collection and used some spare cash at the motel to buy them food from a nearby Wendy’s. When Singh visited the property the next day, 15 people thanked her in person.

        “Do you know,” she said, “I almost teared up?”

        Joe Godoy and his wife, who had been living at the riverbed for more than two years, were among the homeless people at Portola who couldn’t believe their good fortune: a king-size bed, big-screen TV, coffee maker, mini fridge, microwave, and free WiFi. Someone with the county came by late last week with two $75 food cards.”

        Quite generous of us to offer so much help considering what they did to our SART. If they can stay they will, and if the motels allow it, it will happen. And then, say bye bye to the Beach Blvd Specific Plan.

  13. Really? Geographical balance is a concern for some people. I find that hard to believe unless of course those whining own or are invested in a motel and think they deserve a piece of the action or maybe see homeless people as potential voters; that’s a good one. Can’t overlook the ideal, they should be equally spread across cities…one for there, one for there, and one over there, etc.… Yep, that’s really critical thinking at work…LOL

    I have no doubt, location and the limited budget proposed by the program were factors as to which motels were chosen. What’s really laughable though, no matter the severity of the problem or chosen solution, good or not so, (never a perfect solution for those chasing ideals) we are assured of whiners. Begs the question who are the whiners?

    What’s BS is using motels in the first place for homeless. No, that’s whining. It’s just stating a clear-cut fiscal observation, knowing the outcome. We are assured, the money will run out if it hasn’t already; making it a band-aid on a compound fracture. What and where then?

    We’re tackling a problem that’s beyond massive with no perfect solution to prevent it from building on itself, as people chose to move back to the streets and new homeless find their way onto the streets. Yep, the majority of those helped through this effort will want the streets over what comes with holding a steady job, paying bills and or staying on their medications or rehab, then add the street-oriented criminal element.

    I’ve said it before and will again. We help those that want help, after making poor decisions that lead them to the streets. Help those that need and want medical, addiction and or mental illness care, providing some level of temporary housing other than motels. The rest, look at them as insurmountable problems and or the criminals and appropriately apply laws to their behavior or choices. If that means putting them back in jail or prison, I am okay with that. Better than overrunning our parks, ally’s, street corners, and SART.

  14. Ask the county how the vouchers were distributed in the first place. And the criminal activity due to the county undermining the city.

    Any transients criminal activity can also be forwarded to jgraham@ocregister,com as they are doing a follow up from what I hear.

    Any motel getting paid that kind of a sum isn’t exactly in it for hospitality.

    That being said, everyone knows what’s going on, why it’s going on, and who will end up paying: the community residing near the motels.

  15. All the motels involved:

    94 rooms six month lease at baymont
    Motelike 6 has 16
    Covered wagon 3
    Sahara 4
    Sandman 11
    Frontier 6

    The chief has to go door to door at these motels because the county refuses to let them know who they sold out yo. Each room is for more than one oerson.

    Is that OK with everyone?

  16. Tonight 5 pm be there at city halls council meeting to support the people who are raging mad we were screwed over by this, remember the Specific Plan is over…our community shocked they paid them out. DO SOMETHING BY BEING THERD TONIGHT

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