Weekend Open Thread: Here Come the Riverbed Homeless – 1500 of ’em!


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So, I hope the good homeowners of Anaheim and Orange are ready for this:  Monday is when the County starts clearing out all the homeless folks who’ve been camping peacefully on the riverbed, some for a decade or longer.  The pathologically lying County claims that’s a little under 500 people, but I trust my friends and colleagues of the People’s Homeless Task Force who regularly spend time there, and estimate more than 1000, possibly as many as 1500.

Not to worry, says Supervisor Todd Spitzer, perpetually campaigning on the John & Ken radio show, there are shelter beds for these folks to go to.  He certainly knows he’s lying:  there are at most 195 beds available, all of them with strict restrictions difficult or impossible for most people to comply with, and only about 50 that don’t kick you out every morning.  (Hence some wags’ suggestion of a “Camp Spitzer” up near Todd’s Orange Hills home.)

At least Todd’s colleague Shawn Nelson admits that the vast majority of these people – men, women, children; drunk, sober and drugged; addled and level-headed – will be coming back out onto the streets of Anaheim and Orange, where most of them originally came from until they were drawn to the riverbed’s relative lack of harassment.  But wait, don’t give judicial Congressional candidate Nelson too much credit for honesty – he’s the same guy who claimed that last year’s homeless eviction was forced on the county by FEMA’s passion for “rip-rap” on the banks, until an e-mail showed him to be a liar who was mainly reacting to complaints from neighboring Honda Center.  (The supervisorial reaction to this embarrassment?  They made it legal for themselves to erase their own e-mails discussing such matters.  We REALLY need to drain this Supervisorial swamp in 2018-20.)

Just so, the county’s phony pretext for THIS newest chapter of Homeless Wack-a-Mole is necessary maintenance on the flood channel.  Bullshit of course.  Government just takes turns responding to the bitching of the most vocal and moneyed of their voters, most of whom experience severe discomfort with the constant visual and aromatic reminder that the economic system which is working so well for THEM is NOT working for everybody.

But this week’s coming event is serious on a big and tragic level – this is the biggest displacement of “distasteful” people yet in this County.  Many of them already constitutionally stressed-out are starting to become hysterical over this.  SOME OF THEM HAVE BEEN ON THE RIVERBED, bothering nobody, FOR OVER A DECADE.  And the skill set, and set of things you need, for living on the streets instead of a settled campground, is much different.  Friends of mine are hustling to get them carts, blankets, more portable necessities.  The APD’s homeless “liaison team” will have its work cut out for it, once again seizing belongings and handing out tickets that’ll never be paid.  And sadly, support networks developed on the riverbed are going to be disrupted, as Nick Gerda writes in a fine Voice of OC report:

Mora, the homeless woman who said she was born and raised in Anaheim, said she “grew a family” at the riverbed camp, and that it will be difficult to keep those connections after people have to relocate. People at the camp provided moral support for each other, she said.

The coming debacle, at which many of us will be present, witnessing and seeing what we can do to help, puts me in mind of the final song of “Fiddler on the Roof,” where the 19th-century Russian government, responding to yet another wave of Cossack anti-semitism in their constituency, evicts the entire population of the Jewish hamlet of Anatevka, where they’ve been for generations.  Just as on the riverbed this coming week, there is nowhere for Tevye and friends to go … but hey! at least the government is kind enough to give them some time to pack up their things, whatever they can take with them!

Now say something.

It’s your goddamned Weekend Open Thread.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.