SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – The city of Santa Ana this week filed two federal lawsuits against three nearby Orange County cities, alleging they have not done enough to help address the ongoing homeless crisis.

FILE — A homeless encampment in Santa Ana, Calif. March 2018. (CBS2)

The lawsuits filed Monday against Dana Point, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and the county claim they have “not equitably participated in relieving the homelessness crisis in Orange County,” according to a news release. “The complaint seeks to re-focus efforts on a more collaborative approach to the crisis.”

All three cities have been sending their homeless to the Santa Ana Armory instead of establishing their own shelters, according to the suits. An emergency shelter which San Clemente set up back in May has since been closed, the lawsuits noted.

The lawsuits also allege the county itself has focused on sending all its homeless to Santa Ana via the armory and a 400-bed shelter in downtown Santa Ana. As a result, Santa Ana has been forced to divert millions of dollars that would have gone to other services towards the homeless issue.

Furthermore, the complaints note that Santa Ana has the county’s largest Latino population, at 78 percent, and one of the county’s lowest median household income levels.

“As a result, the burden of servicing the county’s homeless that has been placed on Santa Ana constitutes a denial of residents’ equal protection under the law,” the news release read.

The lawsuits are seeking unspecified monetary damages for what Santa Ana is spending on homeless services as well as a ruling blocking the three cities from sending their homeless to the armory. A hearing is set for Feb. 4.

The homeless issue has grown into a major crisis for O.C. over the past few years as rents continue to skyrocket and the supply of available housing is unable to meet the demand.

Back in September, a federal judge signed off on agreements for how the cities of Laguna Beach, Santa Ana and Bellflower would take on homeless encampments in their areas. The agreements stemmed from a federal lawsuit filed in January of 2018 by the Orange County Catholic Worker group and several homeless people to try and stop the county and local cities from clearing homeless encampments out of a two-mile stretch of the Santa Ana riverbed, which runs from Santa Ana to Anaheim.

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.

 

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