County Supervisors Approve Proposed Homeless Lawsuit Settlement.

County supervisors approve proposed homeless lawsuit settlement

Agreement could be finalized at possible court date next week.

La Mesa Emergency Shelter, a 12,500 square-foot homeless shelter, opened in early March in Anaheim. Workers were getting it ready on Tuesday, February 26, 2019. (File photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

By  | thwalker@scng.com | Orange County Register

This article was updated July 18.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed in a closed session Tuesday, July 16, to a proposed settlement of the 2018 homeless lawsuit that already has led to developing a system of care that includes the opening of shelters, more permanent supportive housing units, stepped-up health care outreach to people on the street, and an increase in mental health care services.

A copy of the settlement proposal was not yet available. But a court date before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter to finalize the agreement could take place as soon as early next week.

“This settlement is an important step in Orange County’s efforts to build our system of care and broader homeless response plan,” Supervisor Andrew Do said in a statement.

The proposal is similar to a tentative agreement the county reached in October with lawyers representing homeless plaintiffs in a case that combined a pair of lawsuits filed over the clearing of homeless people from tent encampments at the Santa Ana River Trail, Do said later in a phone call.

But there is one big difference between then and now.

The newest proposal includes a stipulation from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that there will be no enforcement of anti-camping laws in the 10 south Orange County cities that contract with the sheriff for police services unless they provide homeless people some alternative to sleeping outdoors, as required by a court of appeals ruling in the Martin v. City of Boise decision from last year.

Do called it “a statement of policy to let the contract cities know this is how the sheriff’s department will conduct itself in the future.”

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett emphasized on Wednesday that the proposed settlement will not change the current sheriff’s department’s enforcement procedures in the contract cities.

“The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will continue to enforce anti-camping ordinances in the south Orange County cities as they have been, which is in compliance with the law established under Martin v. City of Boise,” said Bartlett, whose Fifth District encompasses almost all of south county.

She added: “The county will continue to work with all cities throughout the region to create solutions to homelessness.”

The 10 contract cities are: Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

For those cities that don’t contract with the sheriff’s department, Do said, “Their challenge is going to be the minute they try to enforce their anti-camping laws, they are going to be sued.”

Five cities — Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Irvine, San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano were sued in February.

The county will be able to enforce its own anti-camping laws on all county owned and operated property after first providing outreach and engagement services, Do said. Immediate enforcement can take place in such restricted areas as the airport and flood control channels.

The original federal lawsuit named the county and the cities of Anaheim, Orange and Costa Mesa. Those cities, along with others in north and central Orange County that later became involved in the litigation, have all reached settlements with the homeless plaintiffs.

Homeless shelters have opened, or are planned, in Santa Ana, Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Tustin, Huntington Beach, Buena Park and Placentia.

 

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