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California

Attorneys for homeless ask judge to bar three O.C. cities from enforcing anti-camping laws

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U.S. District Judge David Carter, right, greets a homeless man while surveying a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River in Anaheim in February.
(File Photo / Los Angeles Times)

Attorneys representing seven homeless people who were displaced from encampments along the Santa Ana River Trail sought an order from a federal judge this week temporarily prohibiting Costa Mesa and two other cities from enforcing anti-camping laws.

The request was submitted in federal court on Thursday as part of an amended complaint in the ongoing civil rights case filed in January against the county and the cities of Orange, Costa Mesa and Anaheim over the clearing of encampments along the Santa Ana River.

The complaint requests that individuals be permitted to remain at and have continued access to emergency shelters, recuperative care, transitional programs and sober living facilities.

The filing states that people who have had access to supportive services after they left the river trail “live with constant fear about the lack of options in the county, generally, and when they will be returned to the street.”

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“The fear impedes their recovery,” the filing states.

It is unclear when Judge David O. Carter, who has been overseeing the case, might rule on the request. Costa Mesa city spokesman Tony Dodero did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment on Friday.

Over the past several months, Carter has been urging the county and its 34 cities to come up with plans to expand the number of emergency shelters. Discussions to that end have been ongoing, according to county officials.

Carter told officials and attorneys during a hearing in April that he doesn’t have jurisdiction to tell cities or the county where they should place shelters. Instead, he proposed a regional approach in which the county would be broken into three zones — north, central and south — each with an equal distribution of shelters and homeless services.

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The idea is that each zone would be able to care for its homeless population, lessening the burden on other regions.

At the time, Carter said he could prohibit the county and the cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Orange from enforcing their anti-camping laws if the groups couldn’t come up with a solution to keep people off the streets.

“We can’t criminalize the homeless by citing them in one location and citing them in another location simply for being homeless,” Carter said during the hearing.

Fry writes for Times Community News.

hannah.fry@latimes.com | Twitter: @HannahFryTCN


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