Vern’s Report from the September 7 Carterpalooza


 Powered by Max Banner Ads 

.

.

.

David Carter, David Doan.

“MOLASSES PACE” was the apt phrase Judge Carter used Friday to describe the progress County and city leaders have been making in sheltering OC’s homeless since February’s Riverbed Eviction, and we homeless advocates could not agree more.  In his constant attempts to spur them to more urgency, he emphasized the coming cold and rainy season, as well as resolving the issues before election time.  (I think coming council elections have driven both bitterly partisan Irvine and bitterly partisan Costa Mesa to paralysis, as candidates use homelessphobia against each other.)

Hovering like a specter over this hearing was the recent 9th-circuit ruling Martin v Boise, which as Carter repeatedly emphasized, “makes Jones the law of the land” – Jones being an LA case which held that governments may not arrest, ticket, or otherwise criminalize people for sleeping in public if there is no other place available for them to sleep.  As the court nicely put it, you can’t criminalize folks sleeping on public property “on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”

We advocates had been impatiently waiting for Carter to make good on his threat of a TRO (temporary restraining order) on recalcitrant towns that refuse to provide shelter beds, a TRO preventing them from enforcing their own anti-camping ordinances until they comply.  Why has he still not done so?  Turns out none of our attorneys have requested a TRO…. apparently because that would likely result in endless unaffordable litigation from cities saying “Fine, then we won’t comply at all.”

Except… doesn’t it seem like such a TRO should be unnecessary and redundant now in the wake of Boise, Boise which Carter repeatedly emphasized “is now the law of the land?”  As we’ll see in the next section, the defendant towns have all promised (with a bit more firmness and detail than before) the required shelter beds … but not until 30-90 days from now, if all even goes well!  So it would seem Boise/Jones should be in effect in those towns until at least that time – Anaheim and Santa Ana cops for example should not be able to prevent folks from sleeping in public until the promised shelters are completed.

Pero, it turns out to be a big Boise-shaped Rorschach test – everyone at court (everyone who SHOULD be knowledgeable) had a different take on how Boise affected their town.  For example, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait agreed with my take: “Obviously we can’t enforce our ordinance until we have these shelter beds completed.” *

Whereas his colleague Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster firmly disagreed:  “This doesn’t change anything for us, because our camping ordinance was always in compliance with Jones.  We never criminalized people simply for being homeless but for other infringements – park curfews, trespassing, blocking sidewalks, putting up TENTS or other semi-permanent structures that violate our camping ordinance.”

*[UPDATE:  Mayor Tait calls to tell me I misunderstood what he said – we can enforce the ordinance “as long as there are beds available.”  Except … there AREN’T.  Not for a while anyway.  Many homeless, few to no beds.  So, I don’t understand except this is obviously a very delicate and semantic political issue.  But the Mayor of OC’s biggest city is NOT saying we “can’t enforce the ordinance.”  Carry on…]

And even on the street, the police all seem to have different ideas of what the shifting legal terrain means, some still enforcing the camping ordinance, some saying people can have tents now.  As the weather gets colder in a few months, is the man gonna tell us we can sleep outside but we have to freeze?  I think we have to (as Santa Cruz is now) at least have our City Attorney give a clear ruling on what Jones and Boise means for Anaheim’s camping ordinance, so we can either argue against that, or have him give clear instructions to the police force.

It’s a good thing, as always, that we have eyes and ears out there, thanks to Lou Noble, Josh Collins, Tim Houchen, and others.

The Cities Promise Shelters

So.  On a separate track from the long-term quest for “permanent supportive housing” (a quest which should be vastly aided now by Sharon Quirk-Silva’s AB 448 for an OC Housing Trust Fund, signed by the Governor a couple days ago) Carter had required each city involved in the suit to come up with a certain number of emergency shelter beds.  And the number of beds he required of each city was SIXTY PERCENT of the homeless population of that town, as counted in the latest “Point-in-time count.”  Why 60%?  I guess he was trying to keep expectations reasonable; plus there ARE homeless that will still refuse shelter … but that 60% is one other factor that suggests Boise/Jones could be in effect indefinitely. 

On Friday each Mayor or City Manager strode up to the podium to boast of their progress and how they had “settled” or “were settling” with the advocate plaintiffs:

ANAHEIM, which already hosts 200 beds at “Bridges at Kraemer,” promised several hundred more: 

  • A 400-bed comprehensive “Center of Hope” which’ll take a while, but pending that a 200-bed temporary emergency center within 90 days – both of these thanks to my good friends at the Salvation Army, and both to be located in their vast lot on the south end of their Lewis Street Adult Rehabilitation Center (pic below.)  No, sobriety and religion will not be required in this new site – it’s a “wet” one – and this makes my buddies in Sallie leadership pretty nervous, having it so close to the fabled ARC, but they emphasize that one of the Sallie’s “directives” for 150 years has been to help the homeless however they can.  And when the permanent site is completed in a couple years (that’s the 400 beds) it’ll have “wet” facilities, sober facilities, and mentally ill facilities – everything Anaheim needs. 
  • And then there’s the “Life Rebuilding Center” project of celebrated bundle of energy Bill Taormina, planned for one of his buildings up near the Hills – he had hoped to build a second story for 150-200 beds but it looks like it’ll be 75 as currently planned.  Still, what band of NIMBYs can march around chanting “No Life Rebuilding Center!”?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

SANTA ANA, home of the notorious 200-bed Courtyard and storied dumping ground for the whole County’s homeless, promised…

  • A huge 600-bed shelter that’s been planned off Warner and Fairview, partly to enable emptying out the not-fit-for-human-habitation Courtyard, which has been under fire for reasons both humane and Nimboid.  There’d been some concern that the property owner here was having second thoughts and that this was because he didn’t want a homeless shelter there … but it turns out that he’s an idealist like Taormina and he just wants it to be as GOOD of a homeless shelter as possible.  But this place probably won’t be ready for 18-24 months so –
  • Don’t worry, in the meantime Santa Ana has planned two “interim” places of 200 and 50 beds, to be ready in THIRTY DAYS.  That’s OCTOBER 7.  Mayor Pulido took the opportunity to taunt the other Mayors present and dare THEM to get something done in thirty days. 
  • Santa Ana’s Deputy Police Chief made sure to let Carter know that his town is still receiving lots of “unscheduled guests” – by which he means, homeless individuals dumped into Santa Ana by police forces of beach towns and the South County.

ORANGE and the NORTH COUNTY SPA.  Orange’s City Manager spoke, mostly not about his town specifically, but as the spokesman for a group of City Managers from the “North SPA (Service Provider Area)” which includes all the towns north of the 22 – that’s 13 towns excluding Anaheim which is doing its own thing, thank you.  The North SPA’s goal is 425-450 beds, and they see it a-coming in the very near future, with one site in escrow and one more in discussions with “a very willing seller.”

COSTA MESA.  Ah, Costa Mesa.  Their City Manager started by saying CM has 103 homeless people, so their responsibility is 60% of that or 62 beds.  Wait – Costa Mesa 103 homeless?  I think I saw them all last time I was there. 

  • Costa Mesa, with difficulty, has agreed to provide a 12-bed Crisis Stabilization Unit, somewhere, for any homeless in the county who are dangerously, violently, mentally ill. 
  • They’ve also agreed to – are you doing the math, Your Honor?  – find a location somewhere for FIFTY BEDS, but don’t know where yet.  The problem is, yes, with the Council agreeing on anything.  Which does not surprise this author – in the bitterly partisan race afoot there, Foley and Stephens seem terrified to do anything positive on this, as whether they do or not, the Righeimer/Mansoor crowd throws charges of homeless-coddling at them like monkey dung. 
  • Elephant in room:  EVERYBODY wants to use the soon-closing Fairview Developmental Center to help with the crisis somehow – everybody except Costa Mesa NIMBYs and the politicians who fear them.  At the last Carterpalooza the Judge instructed CM to contact the Governor for permission and assistance with making this happen.  CM’s CM reports that they DID reach out to Jerry Brown (a quest, these days, akin to reaching Kafka’s Castle) and the Gov’s office assigned a Health and Human Services secretary to contact the town, who allegedly told the town that there are legal restrictions against mixing the homeless population with the mentally ill, so no dice.  I don’t know … do you believe that really happened?  I’m having trouble with it.

Nobody from the South County showed up, and boy are they in hot water!

SQS & the County

I think Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva is mad at me over something I wrote, but she sure is one of the hardest-working public servants out there, and almost everything she does is good.  On Friday she began by justifiably touting her AB 448 OC Housing Trust bill which had just passed and was soon to be signed by the Governor.

But mostly she talked about something she’s been raising the alarm on for a while – the fact that OC has been in grave danger of losing $250 million of Prop 63 mental health money which the BOS has neglected to use for years.  Other legislators have noticed this money going to waste in OC and a few other counties, and have been trying to pass legislation (AB 2843) to re-appropriate all this money into the general fund.  Sharon has been working valiantly speaking out against AB 2843 and lobbying colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote against it, with success SO far.

Granted, Prop 63 money is a challenge to spend because it has so many strings and regulations attached.  But back here in the OC, Sharon met with CEO Frank Kim and BOS chairman Andrew Do to impress upon them how urgent it is to spend this money – on something related to both homelessness and mental health – before it vanishes for good.

Later when Chairman Do spoke, to give Carter a progress report from the County, he lavished praise on Sharon for all the time she’s spent helping the OC on this issue, even “camping out in front of the Governor’s office.”  I later asked Andrew if she literally did that, it sounded pretty picturesque like something one of us protesters would do.  But he laughed and said, “No, I just meant she was there all the time bugging him.”

Segueing into Do’s County progress report – he boasted of: 

  • Building a “system of care” with not just shelters but services. 
  • Finishing the second hundred beds of Bridges at Kraemer.
  • Established a new commission for ending homelessness
  • $5 million in contracts with service providers like CityNet and WisePlace. 
  • Consolidating a data sharing system. 
  • Getting a $20 million CalOptima grant for recuperative care. 
  • Transitioning 550 people in the last two years to Permanent Supportive Housing.

Treat each of those items with the skepticism or credulity they deserve.  But Judge Carter wants the County to provide temporary shelter beds as Anaheim and Santa Ana are doing – particularly in the NIMBY South County where they “seem to think they’re outside of my jurisdiction.”  Carter really likes Do – they go back many years to when Do was a prosecutor, and Carter repeatedly tells him, “I trust YOU.”  The obvious implication being that he DOESN’T trust Supervisors Spitzer, Bartlett and Steel, who notoriously tanked last March’s agreement to put temporary tent shelters in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel.

As I left the hearing for a gig, Carter had just ordered the County to get together with plaintiffs council and find some sites in the South County.  Taking the elevator down with attorneys from both sides, I opined that the original site in Irvine’s Great Park, already zoned SB2, should be forced upon the spoiled dysfunctional City of Beige.  “Yes,” said one attorney, “but we also need one farther south.”  “Well, there are a lot of homeless in San Clemente,” I suggested.  “Yup,” said another attorney, “there or San Juan Capistrano.”

***

So there you have it, that’s all I know.  The Riverbed folks should never have been evicted until all these shelter beds were available.  Now they’re back all over your streets again, and dying – at least they had a working community and support network on the SART.  Ideally they should be allowed to stay there again, in tents, with sufficient porta-potties, a few security officers, and a one-to-one needle exchange program, until the shelters are completed.  But that’s not gonna happen.

Two days before this Carterpalooza, David Doan died, victim of a stroke as he was evicted from the Baymont Motel and forced into the Courtyard, his pleas to be taken to the hospital ignored.  Yeah I know, the OC homeless die at a rate of 3-4 a week.  But David was particularly well-known and beloved, someone who used to fix bikes for all the other homeless, and a tearful memorial was held for him Sunday on the riverbed.  This article is dedicated to him for what that’s worth.

David Doan, 1969-2018

The Register’s Fine Piece

Tim Houchen’s Eulogy.


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.