Leaders from all 34 Orange County cities meet to figure out a solution to homeless issue

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Leaders of several Orange County communities appeared inside a Santa Ana courtroom Tuesday to figure out what to do about the impending homeless crisis.

Judge David Carter called it a "time for blunt talk" as his room was full of mayors and other city officials from all 34 cities in the county.

The discussion comes after the Orange County Board of Supervisors decided last week to give up on a controversial plan to set up temporary tent areas in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel. Those tents would house up to 400 people that were removed from the Santa Ana River Trail.

This week, steps were taken to assess hundreds more who will be removed around the Santa Ana Civic Center plaza area.

The judge told the parties there is plenty of money as millions of mental health dollars were found during an audit that could go toward housing. He urged the county and cities to find a location, stressing the problem of homelessness must be shared fairly.

"People might have come here under a veiled threat, but I think they will walk out of here feeling like 'we can work together,'" Supervisor Andrew Do said.

The county also pledged $90 million for affordable housing.

Do, who is the chairman for the board, admits more could have been done in the past to deal with the problem of homelessness.

The judge is also overseeing a civil rights lawsuit filed by homeless people against the county.

So far, the attorneys representing homeless plaintiffs said they see progress and won't file a temporary restraining order that would prohibit enforcement of the anti-camping laws.

"Our shelters are full and we finally, for the first time, have the county admitting that the shelters are in fact full and there's nowhere left to go," attorney Brooke Weitzman said. "I am cautiously optimistic."

The judge provided them with more time, and they will all meet again on April 19 for further discussion.
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