3 Orange County-run homeless shelters listed as unsafe, sanitary by ACLU

Jessica De Nova Image
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
3 Orange County-run homeless shelters listed as unsafe, sanitary by ACLU
Three O.C.-run homeless shelters were listed in a report by the ACLU as unsafe and unsanitary. The investigation stated that people were exposed to raw sewage, rodents and insects.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Flooding during heavy rain storms was just one of many complaints dozens of homeless people and their advocates had for the Orange County Board of Supervisors about shelter conditions.

Three county-run shelters were listed in a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as unsafe and unsanitary.

Eve Garrow worked on the investigation released in March.

"People exposed to raw sewage, no temperature control, no heat, no air conditioning, infestations of rodents and insects," Garrow said. "They need to be held accountable to much higher standards. Right now those standards don't even exist."

Callie Rutter relied on Bridges at Kraemer Place for shelter. She said trouble came for those who spoke up against staff.

"I have been retaliated against by the staff. I was made to delete pictures. I've been threatened by staff. My life has been threatened by some of my dorm mates," Rutter said.

A photo of a sign provided by ACLU of Southern California to Eyewitness News warns guests at SAFEplace in Santa Ana: "If grievances are made public, an exit date will be assigned."

That's where Monisha Parker said she experienced retaliation after accusing staff of racial discrimination.

"We was outside and she was like mad...I was standing right there and she called me the N-word," Parker said.

O.C. District Three Supervisor Don Wagner said the county was doing what it can but said the ACLU report is unreliable.

"I do believe that the county is working extremely diligently and I do believe that the ACLU in relying on anonymous complaints and in relying on maybe a couple of photographs from the worst possible circumstances are making it look worse than it really is," Wagner said.

This community disagreed, saying it really is this bad.

Parker said she wouldn't' trust, "'til my voice be heard because my voice matters."

The ACLU said if the Board of Supervisors refused to make changes, the nonprofit would be forced to take legal action.