"We might just stay here for a good while," a homeless man named Ron told an OC Weekly reporter a month ago when we profiled the relatively bucolic homeless encampment that had set up on the Fountain Valley portion of the Santa Ana River trail. But as of June 19, there is no signs of Ron or his neighbors, as they have been pushed out by county workers in the name of a public works project. All that's left on the trail behind Costco, where there was once about 40 tents, are belongings that the homeless left behind.
"We've established a community here, a home. All we are missing is a mailbox," said Zakiyahh a 39-year-old woman who has been living along the Santa Ana River trail for three years. She walked around looking for her left shoe within her packed belongings, as she separated them into things she'll keep and things she'll put onto the trucks. Right in from of her tent was a trash truck, two Orange County flatbed trucks, and three sheriff's cars, while two others drove up and down the river bed looking for homeless. "I just found out this morning about the move as I was getting ready to go job hunting."
The Public Work crew and sheriffs remained in their trucks with their AC on to fight the blazing, 84-degree day, listening to the radio and drinking water. A van that read "Orange County Conservation Corps (OCCC)" pulled into the river trail and parks by the encampments. Eight young men jumped out, and begin to load belongings onto the trash cans, cracking jokes about the smell.
"Staring is not caring!" Zakiyahh yelled to one of those creepers as she shook her head. "I have no idea where I'm going to go. A Social Worker came by, and gave me a card—that was it."
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Asked for comment, Public Information Manager for the County of Orange Carrie Braun pleaded progress. "A portion of the trail is decomposed granite, so we want to make it a clear and safe area so that it will be accessible to County workers throughout the project. Verbal notification were given on May 10th by the Sheriffs homeless outreach team and Public Works put up notices on June 15th."
Braun maintained that the County will hold any of the homeless' desired items in a storage for 90 days, though she does not know the location of where that storage building will be. "The healthcare agency has been out there assessing their individual needs."
In the entrance of the river trail sat a man with his head between his legs and his hands covering his shaved head. Junior is 32 years-old and has been homeless for 5 years. "Im just trying to finish my work," he said, pointing to a motorcycle among eight bikes lined up on the concrete. "When I got here they [OC Public Works] was already sorting out through my stuff if I had came back an hour later all my work would have been gone."
Junior says the clearing began Monday morning at 6 a.m., and that Fountain Valley police had warned the encampment about the upcoming clearing. "Im getting a storage to put my stuff into and probably getting a room for the night," he said as he wiped the sweat from his forehead. "But once this is over, I'm coming back here. It's my home."