Nearly 100 homeless individuals residing in encampments in the Santa Ana riverbed became trapped Wednesday night after county officials erected six-foot fences enclosing the area, according to the ACLU of Southern California.
Orange County Public Works began work Wednesday morning on the Sana Ana River project, the OC Register reported. The undertaking is a massive infrastructure overhaul that seeks to increase flood protection across 75 miles of the waterway from east of San Bernardino to the Pacific Ocean.
The six-foot fences surround the riverbed between the Chapman and Orangewood bridges, near Angel Stadium and the 1-5 overpass, the local ACLU said. Days before county officials posted notices there stating residents would have to clear the area for riverbed maintenance and access in and out of the riverbed would be blocked, according to the organization.
An estimated 1,000 homeless people live along the Santa Ana River, with 200 to 250 in the Chapman-Orangewood area, according to KPCC.
Angie Martinez, who told KTLA she has been living in the riverbed encampment for five months, said local homeless shelters are already operating at or near capacity and no one is sure where they will go next.
“It’s sad because a lot of people have been here for years,” she said. “I’ve only been here for five months, but people have actually been living here for years and they have nowhere else to go. All their belongings are just getting thrown out, so I think it’s sad.”
Martinez said she is likely to simply move further down the river. Some activists have argued it is unconstitutional to force residents out of the encampments without providing them an alternative place to stay.
“We’re just worried about where we’re going to go to next,” Martinez said.