Volunteers pitch in as deadline looms for homeless along Santa Ana River to move

ANAHEIM – A month ago, with OC Public Works crews poised to remove his tent encampment on the east side of the Santa Ana River, Arnold Campos wasn’t sure what his next move would be. Maybe he’d relocate to the other side of the river —...

Volunteers pitch in as deadline looms for homeless along Santa Ana River to move

ANAHEIM – A month ago, with OC Public Works crews poised to remove his tent encampment on the east side of the Santa Ana River, Arnold Campos wasn’t sure what his next move would be. Maybe he’d relocate to the other side of the river — but only if county officials weren’t bluffing.

They weren’t.

On Wednesday, with only a day left before the dozens of tents and hundreds of homeless people inside them all were required to leave under a county-imposed deadline, Campos moved to a shady spot close enough to throw a baseball and hit the Big A sign at Angel Stadium.

A short chain-link fence now separates his tent and a growing number of others from the stadium’s parking lot.

It’s unclear whether the homeless will be shooed from where they are settling now on the west bank of the river in clusters of makeshift dwellings stretching north past the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center to Ball Road and south past the gated Renaissance apartment complex at Chapman Avenue and on the east side north to Taft Avenue.

The uncertainty didn’t stop Donald Dermit, who is known to the homeless as “Pastor Donald,” and a handful of other advocates from racing against the clock to help people clear out from a mile-long stretch of county property where the public works department plans to store boulders and sand for use in flood control.

Dermit has gone tent to tent warning people of the urgency and letting them know he’d be back with pickup trucks.

“I told them that this is serious and we’re here to help you and assist you,” said Dermit, who regularly ministers to the homeless in the Anaheim area.

Dermit figures he has helped move more than 100 people move since late last week after getting permission from the county to use its access roads to reach them.

“They’re giving us the grace to do this,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union had sued over removal of the tent encampment and reached an agreement last week with the county that allowed tent dwellers extra time to leave. With that new deadline looming Thursday, posted notices warned, “All personal property will be impounded, refuse will be disposed of, and remaining temporary structures will be dismantled and treated as refuse, after February 23, 2017.”

They helped Tina Fischer pile the remainder of what she wanted to take into the bed of Lonnie Hahn’s black Chevy Silverado and the trailer hitched to it. Hahn runs a photo business nearby in Orange and has visited the tent encampments before.

“I’ve seen it for a long time,” Hahn said. “Some way or another, people have to come together to help them. Or just look the other way.”

Fischer, homeless “on and off” the past two years, was grateful for the assistance in moving.

“This is a way big help,” she said.

She left behind a bulky 48-inch TV that her husband and the man who had lived in a tent next to them labored to roll over on a cart weeks ago. It was as big as an upright piano.

“I’m not taking it, so if anybody wants it, they can have it,” she said. It works, Fischer added.

They had watched the Super Bowl by hooking it up to a gas-powered generator.

Another homeless advocate, Danny Somerville of For Him Ministries, vowed to work into the night moving people. There were still about 50 tents standing in the way of the county’s bulldozers.

“I’ve got lights on my truck,” Somerville said. “I’m going to work until they tell me that I can’t.”

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