Occupy Santa Ana: It takes a “Necessity Village”

Occupy Santa Ana was back at the Santa Ana Civic Center yesterday to protest the ticketing of homeless individuals for camping over night. The protest is meant to call attention to the need for more emergency shelter beds for the homeless in Orange County.

According to an OCRegister story today:

About two dozen Occupy members gathered Tuesday evening on a patch of lawn near Ross Street. Ten mats with blankets were set out on a tarp and dubbed “Necessity Village.” About seven Occupy members planned to stay there until 6 a.m. They expected the action to continue for seven nights. Later in the night they were joined by about 10 people from other Southern California Occupy groups.

Santa Ana police have stepped up enforcement in the Civic Center, resulting in an increase in illegal camping tickets. The cost of one camping ticket is $500, out of reach for the homeless in the Civic Center, Occupy members said. Santa Ana prohibits camping in the Civic Center, as well as in public areas. Read More.

It is estimated that between 5,000 and 8,000 people are homeless in OrangeCounty. Hundreds are residents of Santa Ana, calling the Civic Center their home. An Orange County Register story a few days ago highlighted the need for additional shelter and walked readers through what happens when the homeless are issued $500 tickets for “camping” and how an innovative Homeless Court is helping link the homeless with needed services.

Yesterday also brought the story of Leonard Porto who says he just wants to be left alone.

Porto filed a lawsuit against the city in U.S. district court on March 23, calling the city’s citations of homeless people sleeping in public harassment. After two years without issuing citations for overnight sleeping in public, the city in 2010 returned to the matter, pointing to an uptick in police calls for service to beaches and parks at night. Neighboring cities have similar rules regulating sleeping in public. But to Porto, the citations amount to criminalizing a basic human need, which amounts to a violation of Constitutional rights.

The County of Orange, and the cities of Orange County need to work together to develop a comprehensive plan to address the needs of the homeless in our community. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Ticketing people for sleeping, will not get them housing, food, or jobs. We can no longer take a “not in my back yard” approach to the needs of the homeless. They  are our neighbors, and fellow residents of our community. They need our support, not disdain.

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