Santa Ana officials work to solve city's homeless problem by getting them help, into shelter

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Before the sun came up Thursday, a team of Santa Ana police officers, city workers and support staff met in a parking lot.

All of them are trying to solve the city's homelessness problem.

"Trying to reach to the core of what's going on with these guys - whether it's shelter, drug rehab, AA - and getting them the services they need," Sgt. Juan Montiel said.

With a new temporary 200-bed shelter open in the city, officers can now enforce laws such as anti-camping based on terms from federal judge David Carter. Police said they've done outreach for the last month and are now beginning enforcement.

Officers offered to refer the people to a new shelter, but if they refused they were booked for trespassing and some of them had outstanding warrants. In the last week, more than 100 people have been admitted to the shelter.

"I finally got a job just a month ago. Right now, I'm trying to save some money so I can get a room," Alejandro Ortiz said.

A woman who only went by her first name, Sarah, said she sees that police just want to help.

"Police sometimes just want to like be against us, but you can be surprised and it's good," she said.

Santa Ana and several Orange County cities remain locked in a federal civil rights lawsuit rooted in solving the shelter shortage. Carter and his team have been out with police every day, taking a hands-on approach to the issue they've worked to solve.

"It's an example for the rest of the county, the state and perhaps even the country. Santa Ana has really stepped up to the plate," retired judge Jim Smith said.

Deputy Chief Ken Gominsky said everyone deserves help.

"We're all humans. We all deserved to be treated with dignity. We all deserved to be treated with respect," he said.

When asked how long the outreach and enforcement will last, Gominsky said as long as it takes to solve the homeless problem.
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