Some residents in Orange County, California, are up in arms after county supervisors voted Monday to spend more than $70 million in excess mental health money to create 400 new emergency shelter beds and to set up "camp" shelters in three affluent cities in the county.
Monday's vote followed two days of federal court hearings on Saturday and Monday where supervisors reached several agreements involving lawsuits filed by supervisors and attorneys on behalf of the homeless people recently removed from their camps, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The plans call for possible camps on county-owned land in Irvine, Laguna Nigel, and Huntington Beach.
What's the story?
More than 700 homeless people, living in camps along the Santa Ana River, were moved to motels using 30-day vouchers paid for by the county last month.
There wasn't a plan in place for the homeless when the vouchers expired, so there was a rare federal court hearing on Saturday.
"I thought it made more sense to have a manageable plan before we start clearing the riverbed homeless population, but no one cooperated," supervisor Shawn Nelson said. "Everyone points to somewhere else. Every community thinks we ought to solve this crisis, and every community thinks, 'Why not go to another spot?'"
At the hearing, Orange County officials agreed to extend the motel stays "on a case-by-case basis."
"Some people are creating a false narrative that these cities are being picked on. But we only have a short list of locations we can use," Nelson said. "No one on this board takes glee in making this decision. But we have to have a place for people to go to. We are exiting these people out of the riverbed with no options for them, and we're obligated to step up."
What do residents say?
Some residents said they moved to Orange County for safety reasons.
"This freaks me out. I moved to O.C. because I thought it would be a safe place. Now it's getting more and more like L.A.," Rob Howard, an office manager in Irvine, told the Times. "Who wants tons of traffic, high prices and all kinds of unwanted people around you?"
Others said they understand there's a growing homeless population and want to help as long as they're not living in their neighborhoods.
"When we think of a homeless crisis, we think of an urban environment that's overcrowded and full of noise and chaos. You don't think of it happening in a place like O.C.,"said Ann Huang, a computer programmer in Laguna Niguel.
"I understand that we should be sensitive to needy people. But definitely, I'm going to fight any kind of facility that's close to our towns and kids," Huang added.
Others don't want it to affect their home values.
"Finally, the county is taking action — doling out this kind of money. But they must understand that they can use this money to go buy land elsewhere, maybe the Inland Empire, to relocate the homeless," Mark Smith, a renter in Huntington Beach who wants to buy a home near Pacific Coast Highway, said. "We just can't lower our housing values with this population nearby."
What do city leaders say?
On Tuesday, the Irvine City Council voted unanimously to sue Orange County to stop the proposal.
"How does this solve the problem?" Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner said during a special meeting he organized to respond to the county.