SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – It’s back to square one for Orange County’s homeless crisis, after the O.C. Board of Supervisors Tuesday rejected a controversial proposal to establish a homeless emergency shelter in the community of Silverado.
Silverado became the latest O.C. city to turn out in opposition of a homeless shelter in its community, joining the likes of Irvine, Huntington Beach, Laguna Niguel and Costa Mesa.
The controversial plan, proposed last week by a group of south O.C. mayors, involved establishing a homeless shelter on county land in Silverado Canyon.
The mayors touted the 11-acre site located at at 7531 E. Santiago Canyon Road in a letter to supervisors. It includes two former schools, one of which is vacant.
Dozens of Silverado residents came out against it at Tuesday’s meeting, imploring the board to reject the plan. They argued the shelter would be located near a child care center, a community garden and a new library.
Officials from nearby Lake Forest also opposed the plan.
In February, hundreds of homeless people were cleared from a two-mile stretch of the Santa Ana riverbed – from Santa Ana to Anaheim — after months of wrangling between homeless advocates and county and city officials. Earlier this month, dozens more homeless people were also cleared from the Santa Ana Civic Center.
During the controversial removal from the riverbed, the Orange County Catholic Worker group and several homeless people filed a federal lawsuit against the county and the cities of Anaheim, Orange and Costa Mesa, claiming that removing the homeless from the riverbed violated a broad range of constitutional protections.
The lawsuit resulted in a deal between the advocates and municipal officials in which the homeless would be removed from the riverbed and then be given 30-day motel vouchers while the county looks for more permanent solutions.
Those vouchers have run out, however. The issue in federal court has shifted to the long-term housing of those transients.
Last month, Orange County supervisors abandoned a controversial plan to erect large tents in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel to temporarily house the homeless. The supervisors were forced to abandon the plan after fervent demonstrations from residents and city officials, along with threats of lawsuits. A second proposal — to house the homeless in the state-owned and soon-to-be-shuttered Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa — was also met with strong opposition from residents.
The Silverado proposal came out of a meeting of 11 mayors and city managers from southern county cities Thursday. The meeting came out of a hearing in federal court earlier in the month when U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is presiding over the federal lawsuit, suggested to the county’s southern cities that they needed to do more to support shelters for the county’s transients.
The mayors moved up their next meeting to May 10 to discuss other sites for a regional shelter.
Inaction could lead Carter to impose a restraining order that prevents cities from enforcing anti-camping and anti-loitering ordinances if those municipalities cannot prove they have enough shelter beds for the homeless.
Santa Ana officials have voted to direct their attorneys to sue Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach and drag those cities into the federal lawsuit. Carter has pointed out that the other cities in the county risk being dragged into the litigation as well if they don’t join the ongoing efforts to house all of the county’s transients.
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