The row of tents and awnings stretches for over 2 miles in the channel of a dry river and houses hundreds of homeless people. The garbage-strewn trail is also a cycling route, popular with enthusiasts passing fast with colorful clothes on their bicycles, leaving behind the destitute looking for food, a bath or a job.
In the past two years, the route through the heart of Orange County, Southern California, has become a huge homeless camp that, according to the authorities, has been fueled by the exorbitant cost of housing, disease mental disorders and drug use.
Following the public outcry, the Anaheim municipality declared an emergency Wednesday to try to weather the crisis and streamline the process to add beds to shelters. A day earlier, Orange County officials approved a measure to improve police patrols.
“It has grown so much that they just can not go and apply (ordinances) against illegal camps because you can not find beds for all these people in one fell swoop,” said Mike Lyster, a spokesman for the municipality.
The declaration of a state of emergency due to the growing homeless crisis in Anaheim is the latest occurrence of a similar wave in California’s cities. San Diego is battling an outbreak of hepatitis that has left 16 dead and is spreading among the indigent population.
Denise Romo, 55, is a homeless woman living on the Santa Ana River in Anaheim, not far from the Angels’ baseball stadium in Los Angeles. She said she lost her nanny job, which paid her $ 250 a month, when a car hit her last year and was left with a fractured arm. He could not keep paying the motel where he stayed and ended up on the street.
After seeing the people in the riverbed, Romo decided to try his luck and said he felt safer than in the streets. She has separated a small area where she has put her tent and a chair. She is accompanied by her bitch Girl and said she tries not to go through other parts of the indigent camp that is plagued with drugs and thieves.
“I do not know where I’m going,” he said, adding that his two sons are in jail. “If I could get a shelter, I would go to a shelter.”
The Orange County sheriff’s department plans to increase patrolling from Friday to placate the crime in the area. This year, officials hired a nonprofit organization for a six-month pilot project that links indigents with housing and other resources. So far, 60 people have moved in, said Carrie Braun, a county spokeswoman.
“If you are considering getting resources, this is the time to get resources,” Braun said, adding that the eventual goal is to get the destitute out of the area.