By: Ian Michael Anzlowar
Photography: Jeff Antenore/Voice of OC
A federal judge denied Santa Ana’s attempt to sue Orange County for allegedly failing to combat the homelessness problem by abandoning their homeless population within city limits in a hearing on Feb. 4.
In a complaint filed on Jan. 13, Santa Ana accused Dana Point, San Gabriel and San Juan Capistrano, in addition to Orange County itself, of taking their homeless to temporary shelters in Santa Ana and abandoning them when their housing expires.
“Regardless of the intent as to how or why homeless individuals are brought to Santa Ana, the impact is severe and burdens its residents,” the lawsuit stated.
Santa Ana has since dismissed the lawsuit against the three cities after receiving written assurance that they have not transported individuals to Santa Ana, and have no plans to do so.
The city was seeking unspecified monetary compensation for money spent on homeless, as well as a ruling prohibiting the county from transporting their homeless to the Santa Ana Armory, which is a temporary homeless shelter operating in the winter months.
Santa Ana city officials said that the Armory and the other South County shelters and services are located exclusively in Santa Ana. They said it was unfair to make the city take on even greater responsibility “when Santa Ana has for decades unilaterally served as the leader in the county to relieve the homelessness crisis.”
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter presided over the hearing. He asked for statistics regarding the number of homeless at the Armory, but Santa Ana’s lawyers could not provide any numbers to show the judge.
“In fact, upon questioning, the city could not provide a single piece of evidence that showed a specific incident that the county transferred anyone,” Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do said.
Carter acknowledged that Santa Ana has traditionally been overburdened with homeless people who come to the city and do not leave. He said the fix needs to be political, not via court order.
“The court has no business dictating to the board,” Carter said. “There’s where I have to draw the line.”
He also stated that any disparity regarding the services that the city provides versus what the other cities are avoiding needs to be settled with the county Board of Supervisors.
Carter dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning that if the city could bring more information, they could refile the motion at any future time.
“I applaud the judge’s decision,” Do said. “There was no evidence to even establish a prima facie case that the city was harmed in any way by the parties’ conduct.”