Christmas came early for the neighborhoods adjacent to Maxwell Park on Friday morning, as city authorities cleared the homeless encampment that had been growing exponentially during the last few months – reclaiming the park for its proper use by the public.
As many as 50 tents clogged the sidewalks on both sides of Broadway, in front of Maxwell Park and the Haskett Branch of the Anaheim Public Library. The homeless campers had tired of moving their tents back and forth from the park to the sidewalk as the city enforced park hours, and simply began living on the sidewalk. Tents came right up to the front yards of house across the street, and all along the frontage of a neighborhood nursery. Both sides of Broadway were redolent of the stench of excrement, urine and marijuana.
These photos taken on Sunday, December 23 show a Maxwell Park free of tents and squatters, although obviously worse for the wear:
This was how these same sidewalks looked on Wednesday night:
Beginning on Thursday, December 20, city authorities and social workers began transporting homeless from Maxwell and other Anaheim parks to the 200-bed State College temporary emergency shelter. They had been outreaching to these folks for two weeks prior to inform them of what was coming down the pike, and that living in Maxwell Park would no longer be an option. At the beginning of last week, approximately 150 homeless had pre-registered for the shelter and by Friday, some 75 beds had been filled.
Federal Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing the settlement agreement that is driving the construction of 325 permanent homeless shelter beds in Anaheim, toured the State College shelter on Thursday. He characterized it as possibly the best homeless facility he has seen, and maybe nationwide.
Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu spent the night at the shelter on Thursday night, telling the Voice of OC:
“I have to make sure it’s good,” Sidhu said. “I wanted to make sure that people can sleep there if I can sleep there.”
The State College homeless shelter was built in just two weeks, thanks to the participation and nimbleness of the private sector.
Homeless advocates, while praising establishment of the State College shelter, have also nitpicked about various aspects of its amenities and operation in a classic manifestation of letting the perfect by the enemy of the good.
Brook Weitzman is the progressive attorney whose lawsuit to stop the clearing of the Santa Ana River Trail encampment has prevented enforcement of the anti-campaign ordinance and ultimately led to the settlement agreement. She claims the provision of 200-beds in a world-class shelter environment as a bridge until the longer-term shelters come on line in a few weeks does not allow the city to enforce the ordinance. The stance of Weitzman and her allies is essentially this: thank you for the shelter beds, but anyone who doesn’t want to go should be allowed to remain in the parks. At the end of the day, the negative impacts of these encampments on the lives of homeowners and other residents is of peripheral interest to these advocates.
The rapid construction of shelter beds is a good thing: it offers a refuge for the homeless who want to escape that life and enter one of self-reliance. Those who refuse help cannot be allowed to live in parks or any other public property. Anaheim is now moving quickly to provide the necessary beds in order to enforce the anti-camping ordinance and preserve public parks for the proper purpose.