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Homeless cleared from Newport Beach bus station

Newport Beach bus station 1
Sharon Dasher, 70, packs her belongings Thursday at the Newport Beach transit center to take a bus to Santa Ana after police the night before removed the tent she was staying in on the premises. She said she ended up sleeping on the sidewalk. She said she hoped to gather enough money to take a bus to Prescott, Ariz., where her brother lives.
(Hillary Davis)

A homeless encampment at the Newport Beach transportation center was cleared late Wednesday as police officers began trespassing enforcement requested by the Orange County Transportation Authority.

Up to a dozen tents had been at the Avocado Avenue bus station near San Joaquin Hills Road and MacArthur Boulevard at any given time, set up under shade structures where riders wait for buses or on the pine-shaded dirt slope curving around the station’s northeast edge.

By Thursday afternoon, all were gone, although a few people sat or lay on the pavement, surrounded by their belongings, mostly in plastic bags.

Newport Beach bus station 2
A new “No trespassing” sign at the Newport Beach transit center on Avocado Avenue posts the hours the station is closed to the public. Tents housing homeless people were on the slope behind the sign until police removed them late Wednesday.
(Hillary Davis)
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OCTA gave Newport Beach police the go-ahead earlier this month to remove people from the bus station after operating hours. Only OCTA employees or contractors are to be allowed at the station from 11:15 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily, when buses aren’t running. Anyone else is subject to arrest.

Sharon Dasher, 70, said she was the last off the slope Wednesday night. Her tent is being held at the Newport police station, but she kept most of her belongings with her when she slept on the sidewalk after the removal.

“I said, ‘How can you take me away from this?” Dasher said Thursday as she used bungee cords to secure a tarp over a cart holding her personal effects.

Dasher said she lived in Costa Mesa for 50 years before falling into homelessness last year. Arthritis shows in her movements, but she politely declined assistance with packing up.

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With her cart in tow, she planned to take a bus to Santa Ana to meet with her counselor at the Mental Health Assn. of Orange County. She said she wants to gather enough money to take another bus to Prescott, Ariz., where her brother lives, possibly by advancing her Social Security check with a payday loan.

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Tents inhabited by homeless people occupy parts of the Newport Beach transit center on Avocado Avenue on Sept. 10. The encampment was removed late Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Police officers went to the bus station just before 11:30 Wednesday night to tell the people staying there to leave with their possessions. That came about a week after police began advising camp occupants of the station’s public hours. Officers spent about a half-hour clearing the station, said Newport Beach police spokeswoman Heather Rangel.

One man was arrested on suspicion of trespassing after “he repeatedly refused to leave,” Rangel said.

New signs listing the hours when the station is closed to the public and the relevant state penal code are posted around the site, including on a pole near the wooded slope.

OCTA Chief Executive Darrell Johnson said in a letter to the city that his agency has “experienced various negative secondary effects associated with individuals who remain on the property after its posted hours.”

“These effects include storage of trash and debris, public urination and defecation and active interference with OCTA’s personnel and/or contractors who are attempting to perform maintenance at the property,” according to the letter.

OCTA also is planning a perimeter fence with a locking gate to enclose the depot when buses aren’t running, further preventing overnight stays.

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Newport Beach does not have a homeless shelter, but city officials are looking into leasing space at an Avis car rental lot at 4200 Campus Drive near John Wayne Airport for a temporary facility. Staff also is exploring the possibility of converting part of a city-owned maintenance yard at 592 Superior Ave.

Daily Pilot staff writer Julia Sclafani contributed to this report.

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Updates:
5:59 PM, Sep. 19, 2019: This article was originally published at 2:33 p.m. and has been updated with additional information and comments.

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