Aliso Viejo Slammed For Dumping Homeless In Laguna Beach
ALISO VIEJO, CA — South Orange County cities took notice, Monday, as Laguna Beach was lauded for its work with the homeless, while Aliso Viejo was chastised for "relocating" homeless people to its neighboring town.
Federal judge David O. Carter signed off Monday on settlement agreements for Laguna Beach, Santa Ana and Bellflower on how officials in those cities handle homeless encampments and loitering. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter said his phone "is ringing off the hook" with officials from other cities inquiring about the agreement.
After praising Laguna Beach officials, whose efforts to address homeless issues date back a decade, the judge accused neighboring cities of "dumping" their homeless populations at Laguna Beach's shelter.
Carter said Aliso Viejo in 2017 counted 28 homeless individuals in the city, but only one last year.
"What happened to the other 27 people?" Carter said, adding they all ended up in the Laguna Beach shelter.
Carter predicted more municipalities will likely join the settlements stemming from litigation that originated in Orange County, when county officials moved to clear out homeless encampments in January 2018 along the Santa Ana riverbed.
The agreement represents a "healthcare first approach," said attorney Brooke Weitzman, one of the lawyers who filed lawsuits against Orange County.
City officials agree to have social workers evaluate a homeless person first before enforcing any anti-camping or loitering laws. The goal is to place a transient into some sort of emergency shelter as a first step toward more long-term housing.
Also, transients will be able to utilize a "dispute resolution" process if they are denied shelter or evicted from one.
Transients who refuse services can be subjected to jailing as long as the participating city has demonstrated it has provided enough shelter beds for its homeless population.
"This is a momentous occasion," Carter said.
The judge predicted that other cities may see an "unintended migration" of transients from the cities that have entered into settlement agreements.
Carter said Laguna Beach officials, "starting tomorrow," can begin efforts to place transients into shelters, and, if they refuse, they'll face jail.
"We're going to clean up your libraries, your beaches," Carter said. "Those who decide they don't want the shelter will go to jail.
Carter said Laguna Beach shouldn't be "punished" for its "generosity" in sheltering the area's homeless.
Fullerton Mayor Jesus Silva told Carter that his city, which previously signed on to an agreement that included about a dozen cities in the northern part of the county, is working on a project that would provide up to 150 new beds for the area's homeless.
Carter approved an agreement in June that provides for new shelters in Buena Park and Placentia that will house homeless people in the northern part of the county.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, however, said the Buena Park shelter may be in trouble as there is a $1 million shortfall in funding. She said a dispute among healthcare providers and the insurance agency for the area's needy has blocked the funding.