Santa Ana protesters voice concern over removal of homeless encampments

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- As Orange County officials were removing encampments along the Santa Ana riverbed as part of a public works project, protesters on Friday were voicing their concerns.

Time is up for the homeless living on the east side of the riverbed. Last month, OC officials imposed a deadline to clear the mile-long stretch and make room to store flood-control materials.

"We gave them a few weeks of notice before the project actually began on Feb. 8, then the project began and we actually halted the project for a lawsuit with the ACLU, which extended the time that they had to remove themselves from the project area," explained Orange County Public Information Manager Carrie Braun.

Nick Matrischino said he knows he has to move out but has waited till the last minute because he has nowhere to go.

"You know, if you are disabled and you're my age and you're male, nobody wants to help you out or take you in," he shared.

County officials said a homeless outreach team is trying to help those living in the encampment, but the majority refuse the resources.

"For a variety of reasons. Some being that they have pets, that they have too many belonging they are not willing to give up to go to the shelters," Braun added.

Outside the Orange County Civic Center, a crowd of students and activists protested the removal of the homeless. They said the county is using the material storage excuse as a way to get rid of the encampment.

"We are not," Braun said. "The county is well aware that there are homeless people who are encamped in the project area. Obviously, homelessness is a very complex issue and we're trying to address it with resources, but the fact remains that this project needs to be completed."

"These aren't dogs, these are human beings," shared activist Kimberly O'Neill. "They're residents of Orange County and they have every right."
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