The political crisis over homelessness in Orange County approached a crucial moment Tuesday as a federal judge raised the prospect of barring local governments from enforcing anti-camping ordinances if officials cannot create temporary shelters for hundreds being swept out of tent cities.
The county for weeks has been struggling to find locations to place the homeless after removing them from an encampment along the Santa Ana River. A plan to place temporary shelters in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach died amid loud protests from residents last week, and the problem is expected to get worse as officials move to clear out another tent city at the Santa Ana Civic Center.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter expressed frustration at the political stalemate during a hearing Tuesday. He said he could not decide where the shelters should go, but said he could prohibit cities from enforcing laws that ban people from camping in public spaces such as parks and river ways. Carter said that without those laws, Orange County communities could become magnets for homeless people.
In essence, the judge said Orange County can’t have it both ways.
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