Temporary court order protects property of homeless at the Santa Ana River

SANTA ANA – U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter issued a temporary restraining order Friday that prohibits county workers from seizing the property of homeless people living along the Santa Ana Riverbed near Angel Stadium without giving 24-hour notice.

The county also is prevented from destroying any belongings that have not been abandoned and don’t present “an immediate threat to public health or safety, or is evidence of a crime, or contraband,” and must store seized property for at least 90 days. Essential items, such as medication and identification, must be accessible within a 15-minute walk.

Carter’s order is related to one of two lawsuits filed this month on behalf of homeless people displaced from tent encampments by an O.C. Public Works project on the east bank of the river. The county plans to store tons of boulders and sand in an area above a maintenance road running south from Orangewood Avenue in Anaheim to the 22 Freeway in Orange.

The judge set March 6 to hear arguments over a preliminary injunction requested in the lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Elder Law and Disability Rights Center on behalf of five homeless people and a ministry that serves them. The suit alleges that county workers illegally destroyed the property of the homeless plaintiffs.

The latest court action unfolded in the mid-morning Friday as the last of hundreds of homeless people moved out of the area, earmarked for stockpiling materials for use in flood control. Miles away, about a dozen Chapman University students staged a protest they call “Stop the Rocks” near the county’s Hall of Administration at the Santa Ana Civic Center.

A Thursday deadline to move had been set under a settlement in a different lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Where a week ago dozens of tents and makeshift dwellings stretched for a mile between Orangewood and Chapman avenues, only about 20 remained Friday. Several tent dwellers continued to stuff belongings…

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