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Protests Push O.C. to Kill Its First Real Plan to Help the Homeless

The affluent county finally authorized a concrete plan to address a housing crisis, but forceful opposition from residents put them 'back to Square One.'
March 29, 2018, 10am PDT | Katharine Jose
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A week after Orange County devised and announced its "most concrete effort yet to find housing for the unsheltered," the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to take it back. 

The plan, which involved installing three temporary camps for the homeless on county land in three different cities, was quickly and forcefully opposed by residents of those cities. 

As the cost of living continues trise across the country, so does the number of people without homes and the number of informal settlements. Different cities are responding to those settlements in different ways: Tacoma, for example, tried to move everyone into one big camp, while Spokane installed boulders as a deterrent. Los Angeles may be setting up trailers on city property, while Las Vegas, with the eight-largest homeless population in the country, is in the process of buying the land underneath a large informal settlement in order to make it permanent. 

The events In Orange County were put into motion several months ago, when the county official began the process of removing about 1,000 homeless individuals who were living in camps along the Santa Ana River.  A few weeks later, in response to a lawsuit, a federal judge ordered them to stop the evictions unless or until the county could provide somewhere else for those people could live for a minimum of 30 days. 

Shortly after, the evictions began again, but this time the riverbed residents were moved into county motel rooms paid for by vouchers. 

As the 30 days expired, county officials agreed to extend motel vouchers, but only on a case-by-case basis; around the same time, Orange County authorized $20 million towards permanent housing for the homeless, and then $70 million for permanent housing and also towards establishing three temporary camps in three different cities on land already owned by the county. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, affluent Orange County "faces special challenges because it has a relatively sparse infrastructure of services and support for homeless people;" it's unclear what will happen now that the most recent vote by the Board of Supervisors "throws the county's efforts to address the region's homelessness crisis back to Square One." 

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Published on Thursday, March 29, 2018 in Los Angeles Times
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