Parkway Skid Row South

This story from the Los Angeles Times about illegal camping along an area river parallels what is happening in our Parkway skid row.

An excerpt.

The message on fliers stapled to wooden poles along the Santa Ana River trail in Orange County was clear to Sergio Guerra:

Move.

For the hundreds of homeless people who created a makeshift community of tents and encampments along the river’s concrete edges between Fountain Valley and Anaheim, it’s time to either pack up or face arrest.

“We can keep debating, but really, we have no one to turn to,” said Guerra, 44, who is among dozens of people living along the trail. “This happens to us over and over. I go from one city to this city and now I’ll have to find another city. We just have to take whatever stuff we can carry and move on.”

Over the last few years, Orange County has watched as the banks of the river have been transformed into what some officials describe as “skid row south,” a desperate and swelling community of homeless people.

The homeless problem has overwhelmed the affluent county, where growing communities of transients have sparked concern and at times conflict in numerous cities. Anaheim earlier this year removed bus benches in its Disneyland resort district after complaints about homeless people sleeping on them. The Orange County civic center in Santa Ana became another grim camp.

But the river has become the focus of the most tension, with residents saying the filthy conditions pose health and safety problems.

Clearing out the river trail coincides with a plan by county public works crews to start repairing flood control district property along the trail. Later this fall, workers will install gates at public entrances to the trail, locking them after closing hours, according to Carrie Braun, spokeswoman for Orange County.

It remains unclear where those kicked out of the homeless camps will go. Several surveys have found Orange County’s homeless population rising over the last few years, and officials have been trying to fashion a coordinated approach involving the county’s cities that takes into account the different causes of homelessness, including economic woes, a lack of healthcare and recent reforms in the criminal justice system.

Armories might provide temporary shelter for those displaced from the river trail. The National Guard armory in Santa Ana is open as a nightly sleeping area for the homeless during the winter. The Fullerton armory is expected to begin operating as a nighttime shelter Nov. 16.

County officials noted that Bridges at Kraemer Place in Anaheim and the Courtyard, which operates at the former Santa Ana Transit Terminal, are two homeless shelters that could provide assistance for people displaced from the river trail.

However, homeless advocate Lou Noble said many people who camp alongside the river will likely end up back on the city streets.

The standoff along the Santa Ana River shows the tension between Orange County’s suburban ideal and the grim reality of life without housing.

Residents who live near the river say the county’s clean up is long overdue.

“We’ve called everyone to get this taken care of — those community resource officers, the sheriff’s homeless outreach team, code enforcement — we’ve been fighting for the homeless removal since February,” said Sally Marsilio, whose condominium complex in Fountain Valley overlooks the trash-filled trail.

“Most people won’t even come out here because they’re so scared or so disgusted with the way things are,” added her friend Carol Martin as the pair walked their dogs a few hundred yards before returning to their homes. “We want our neighborhoods back. No one feels comfortable around here because the trail’s been taken over.”

Pamela Tansey, another Fountain Valley resident, expressed similar frustration. For years, Tansey referred to her condominium as the “condo on the prairie.”

She used to sit on her patio and watch people bike and jog along the Santa Ana River trail a few feet away. It was peaceful, she said — until the tents began to go up.

Homeless people started trickling into the area, near Harbor Boulevard and Edinger Avenue, about a year ago, setting up tents roughly 12 feet from her front door. In the last year, the number of homeless there has grown exponentially, she said.

People clean themselves in view of her windows, defecate into bags and pile trash along the trail, she said. She’s heard arguments in the tents and seen people wrapped in blankets shooting drugs.

In June, she said, a homeless man threw a can of soda and urine onto her patio.

Retrieved November 9, 2017 from http://beta.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-river-trail-access-20171031-story.html

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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