Anaheim Shutters Homeless Camp

Orange County officials announced on Monday that the residents of Anaheim’s homeless camp on the Santa Ana River must leave the area by January 21 or face a citation for trespassing. The camp is located near Angel Stadium, the home of the Los Angeles baseball team. Nicknamed River View Village by its residents, it provides shelter for about 400 homeless people.

Since it was first occupied in 2014, the camp has become increasingly unpopular with many Anaheim residents, who fear that drug use and crime will overtake their neighborhoods. In September, locals collected over 13,000 signatures for a petition asking Orange City supervisor Todd Spitzer and the Anaheim Council to remove the homeless encampment. In an effort to calm community fears, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office instituted twice-weekly patrols of the camp area. The Anaheim City Council declared a public health and safety state of emergency on September 13. The move was seen by many as a precursor to clearing the camp.

Anaheim has a population of around 900 homeless people, while Orange County has about 5,000 homeless. In the past four years, homelessness has risen by 54% in the county. According to Orange County officials, high housing costs, low wages and a shortage of adequate housing has exacerbated the homeless crisis.

River View Village has grown into an encampment that shelters hundreds of people. The tent city features a makeshift store and a pet cemetery. However, local residents and officials say that the camps, with their lack of proper toilets and trash collection services, are dangerous and dirty. Homeless advocates estimate that as many as 1,000 people shelter on or near the concrete banks of the Santa Ana River’s flood control channel.

Local nonprofits claim that the move to shutter the city’s largest homeless camp will simply transfer homeless from the Santa Ana camp to neighborhoods and streets. Anaheim currently has enough beds in its homeless shelters to service only half of its homeless population. Local nonprofit City Net has been working since July to help relocate camp residents to live with their families. However, as of November, the charity had only relocated around 100 people.

Officials announced Monday that they will be closing the camp area for three months to clean debris and undergo maintenance of the canal. The county also plans to install gates along the river’s bike trails, barring entry to the riverside after sunset. When the bike trails reopen, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office plans to regularly patrol the river banks to ensure that campers do not return.