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California battle over a homeless camp faces important day in court

SANTA ANA, California. – Southern California officials and homeless advocates have sparred for months over the fate of hundreds of homeless people living in tents on a bike path that meanders along a riverbed to the Pacific Ocean.

Now, both sides are faced with a critical court Tuesday over a lawsuit aimed at blocking of Orange County of the conclusion of the 2-km-long (3 miles long) camp.

Homeless residents and their advocates have argued that officials can’t shut down the camp without the provision of adequate housing, especially since a lot of liquidation, to live there after the police in the nearby cities launched them to the streets and sidewalks.

“We are able to solve the problem — we have the land and we have the money,” said Brooke Weitzman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “It is not a place where we have a bunch of homeless people and we really have no alternatives for them.”

The lawsuit is being watched by homeless advocates in West Coast cities and elsewhere in the middle of a rise in homelessness and the growth of encampments. Tens of thousands of people sleeping on the streets of Seattle to San Diego, a problem partly caused by rising housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a vibrant economy.

“These are the questions which are conducted in the whole country,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness And Poverty. “What the judge decides, can be used by these parties, and can be viewed by other courts, even if it is not binding.”

Orange County, which is home to 3.2 million people between Los Angeles and San Diego, told homeless campers at the end of January that they would need to start moving. Deputies patrolled the vicinity of the Los Angeles Angels stadium to tell people about the move and offer help in storage of items and find shelter.

When homeless advocates heard the province is planning to step up efforts to relocate tent-dwellers, they sought protection from the courts. U. S. District Judge David O. Carter temporarily blocked officials of the arrest of those who refused to move — at least until after the hearing in federal court in Santa Ana.

Deputies still patrol the route for criminal activity, but are no longer encouraging people to leave, said Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Since the relocation of the efforts began, approximately 30 percent of the tents have been moved, ” she said.

The officials said the trail is in poor condition. Employees collected more than 400 pounds (181 kilograms) of human waste and more than 2,200 syringes in a period of two weeks, according to court filings by the county attorneys.

She said a nearby shelter never has the full capacity and that the homeless given that the route would be closed for cleaning.

“The Constitution is not recognized, nor have plaintiffs an authority for the right of a person to adversely possess public property, and only by the set of their belongings,” Marianne Van Riper, senior assistant county counsel, wrote in court documents.

The province faces another lawsuit filed last week claimed that the closing of the camp in conflict with the rights of disabled people that live there.

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