It’s silent. Too silent. The sun is beaming on the Santa Ana riverbed, yet it feels gloomy. Tents still line the fences, but most of their owners have gone. Clothes, bikes, broken furniture and other priceless belongings have been left behind.
A handwritten sign stands tall,“You are more concerned with the trash, than you are a human being. So what does that make you!”
The city of Anaheim declared a state of emergency surrounding homelessness, but the situation has been handled poorly. People are being forced out of a community that has become their own, with the threat of arrest as the consequence for staying.
Forcing individuals out of a riverbed with little guidance is dehumanizing and immoral.
The goal is to end homelessness, at least in Orange County. The reality, however, isn’t going to be achieved by simply pushing them to the side.
An estimated 500 to 1,000 individuals have been living in the shadows of the riverbed, but little action has been taken to remedy the issue. The residents of Anaheim voiced their concerns over the growing homeless community, worried that their neighborhood was becoming unsanitary and unsafe, and at last the city of Anaheim has taken action.
Individuals that already have so little are being pushed out of sight and left to be forgotten.
Out of hundreds of individuals being driven out of the riverbed, only 100 of them can be currently accommodated at the new homeless shelter in Anaheim. Later this year, only 100 additional spots will be provided.
What happens to the rest of them? They have already been driven out of cities surrounding Anaheim and are now being forced to return to the cities they arrived from, or migrate further. It’s a repeating, endless cycle in which no method of successful aid has been implemented.
As one of the signs on the Santa Ana riverbed morbidly notes,“You have somewhere for the trash to go, but nowhere 4 us to go.”
The reasons people become homeless vary, from high cost of living, to suffering from mental illnesses and facing impossible drug addictions. Many individuals that live in these conditions started off with sustainable lives.
Veterans that risked their lives for their country, citizens that have been hurt in the workforce, employees that were let go from failed businesses or had impossibly low paying jobs. Mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends who have lost all hope in their lives. These are the individuals living in tent homes, hoping to be left alone rather than pushed out yet again.
One of the biggest complaints about the riverbed community from Anaheim residents is the waste and trash in the area. However, when advocates tried providing these individuals with portable restrooms and showers, the county claimed them as unauthorized and got rid of them.
Even a temporary solution wasn’t enough. Instead, the county decided to clear out human beings without reasonable accommodations.
Though Anaheim has yet to come up with viable long-term alternatives, there is no easy solution to homelessness. The number of people losing their homes and being forced to live on the streets is greater than the resources available. But, the county must realize that it is unreasonable to expect individuals to disappear.
Putting homelessness out of sight is not providing a solution to the problem. Ending homelessness is gathering enough basic human essentials and finding proper shelter for these individuals, before expecting them to disperse.
Even when it’s difficult, communities must actively respond to the issue by reminding them that the homeless are also their members. While the homeless shelter in Anaheim was a good start, more community action must be taken to allow people in need to have a place to stay and receive the help needed to improve their lives.