SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – Authorities have begun removing dozens of homeless people who have been living in encampments along the riverbed and flood-control channels in the Santa Ana area.

Beginning Friday, Orange County permanently closed the west side of the flood control channel between West 17th Street in Santa Ana and Adams Avenue in Fountain Valley.

Since Nov. 3, Orange County Sheriff’s deputies have been strictly enforcing public access hours along the Santa Ana River Trail. Access is only allowed between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In September, the O.C. Board of Supervisors approved a plan to increase law enforcement along the riverbed from Santa Ana to Anaheim, where more than 400 transients are estimated to live. The O.C. board voted in June to direct staff to come up with a plan for law enforcement in the area, which is owned by the Orange County Flood Control District, a separate legal entity.

Part of the plan involves pushing the transients out of the riverbed areas to help them get back on their feet elsewhere.

The homeless issue has come to the forefront in O.C. The Santa Ana City Council in September declared the homeless issue around the Santa Ana Civic Center a public health and safety crisis and created a full-time homeless services manager position.

That same month, the Anaheim City Council declared a state of emergency over the issue.

“The crisis in the river bed puts those living in the camps at risk as well as those in the communities,” Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray said at the time. “There are criminal elements taking hold in these areas. Threatening the homeless and residents. We have our own winter storm season coming and the flood control channel presents risk for lives who are there.”

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