SAN CLEMENTE (CBSLA) – The San Clemente City Council voted Tuesday night to set up an emergency homeless shelter after hundreds of residents packed a council meeting to protest the growing number of homeless people in the city’s North Beach area.
The meeting came after video was released on social media of a rat infestation in a local homeless camp.
“With summer coming, it’s a bit like the movie ‘Jaws,’ we’re little Amityville here, but instead of a great white shark, we’ve got drugs, prostitution, alcoholism,” one man told the council.
Residents urged the council to move the encampment from the popular surf spot to a fenced city yard near Avenida Pico and Avenida Vista Hermosa that would have tents and bathrooms.
“We should do the minimum necessary to create a temporary shelter that doesn’t last forever,” one man said.
After hearing hours of public comment, the city council voted unanimously to set up the temporary shelter that will open by Friday.
“The summer’s coming, and I wanted to sign my son up for beach camp, boogie boarding, and it’s at North Beach, and I can’t do that,” resident Shari Grace told CBS2. “I’m afraid of the needles, and I’m afraid of the rats, I’m afraid of the blood that’s on the sidewalk.”
The homeless issue has grown into a major crisis for Orange County over the past few years as rents continue to skyrocket and the supply of available housing is unable to meet the demand.
In December, a large tent city at a popular park in Anaheim was cleared out and the homeless living there were bussed to a shelter about five miles away.
Residents in cities including Silverado, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Laguna Niguel and Costa Mesa have turned out in force to oppose plans to build emergency shelters in their communities.
In February 2018, hundreds of homeless people were controversially 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. In April, dozens more homeless people were also cleared from the Santa Ana Civic Center.
In March 2018, O.C. 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.