The temporary emergency shelter on State College is due to open its doors the morning of December 20. The first order of business is to accommodate those homeless encamped at Maxwell, Twila Reid and La Palma parks. Homeless people camping at those parks have been outreached to and warned that with the opening of the temporary shelter, the city will no longer be constrained from enforcing its anti-camping ordinance and the reclamation of those parks will begin.
That moment will arrive none to soon for impacted Anaheim residents, especially those who live by Maxwell Park. Long-time resident and former community college trustee Leonard Lahtinen voiced the exasperation of West Anaheim residents at this week’s council meeting:
“They’re on the sidewalks of both sides of Broadway Street, along Maxwell Park, in forty to fifty tents and pop-ups. Broadway Street is now our “river runs through it” in West Anaheim,” said Lahtinen, alluding to the massive homeless Santa Ana River Trail encampment that was cleared out nearly a year ago.
“They are not inside the park anymore because the park closes at 10:00 p.m., so it’s easier just to stay on the sidewalks day and night,” he continued.
“For your information, there is also a pedestrian bridge across the flood control channel near the West Anaheim Community Center that leads to another, small, homeless encampment which extends into Schweitzer Park,” said Lahtinen.
Lahtinen applauded the council for rapidly moving on the State College shelter” “Thank you. That is quick work. It’s about time.”
“The homeless need help, but so do we,” said Lahtinen. “We want our parks, our neighborhoods and our sidewalks back. Will the campers be forced off of sidewalks and out of parks now? Or soon? Or when?”
Tonight, it was still business as usual on the section of Broadway Street to which Lahtinen – the jarring juxtaposition of dozens and dozens of tents on the sidewalk, just feet from older but well kept homes adorned with Christmas lights:
Standing on the side walk near the encampment, the odor of urine and marijuana can be overpowering. Homeless milled around, rode bikes and socialized while local residents studied in the nearby Haskett Branch library. I spoke with a homeless gentleman who said he had signed up to enter the State College shelter. He knew the vans were coming in the morning to take people over and said the police had been passing out leaflets. I showed him photos I had taken an hour earlier of the nearly-completed shelter:
He seemed more resigned than hopeful, and said the county should never have cleared out the SART encampment (where he had lived for a time). We shook hands and wished each other luck.
With luck and determination, this miserable scene will cease to be a daily and nightly reality for the homeowners near Maxwell Park, as well as the denizens of the encampment.