Orange County Reaches “Landmark” Settlement on Homeless Encampments

An 18-month legal battle over homeless encampments along the Santa Ana River trail has ended with a landmark settlement that is being called a “model” for all local governments struggling with homelessness.

The agreement was signed by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter on July 23 and given preliminary approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Per the agreement, the county will create two zones on which anti-camping laws may be enforced. In one zone — which includes John Wayne Airport, flood control channels, libraries, and fire-prone areas — homeless persons may be ordered to leave immediately and arrested if they do not comply. In the second zone, health and social workers must first evaluate the individuals’ health needs and either secure medical attention or direct them to an available homeless shelter within the same part of the county. Homeless people can no longer be moved or “dumped” from one region to another.

For anti-camping laws to be enforced in a city, that city must have adequate shelters in place. The county has reaffirmed its commitment to safe, sanitary, and adequate facilities, with the agreement outlining new standards.

“You’re far in front of any other county in this state, and I hope the governor recognizes that,” Judge Carter told county officials.

“This is an exemplary document that the governor should know about,” he added. “It’s a role model for the state. It’s a role model nationally.”

Carter also received praise for his “hands-on approach” throughout the entire process from the county’s chief negotiator on the matter, Supervisor Andrew Do.

The agreement does not apply to South County cities which are involved in separate litigation over homeless citations and property removal. They are schedule to appear in court in that case on Aug. 5.

The entire settlement can be viewed here.

Read more at the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Times, Voice of OC, and Patch