The Voice of OC said about 250 Irvine residents showed up at the Great Park to protest a proposed Tent City for the Homeless on Sunday; others at the event said the crowd was much larger and the event seemed very unfocused.
I posted on social media over the weekend how ashamed I am in my Irvine neighbors who placed the value of their homes over the value of human lives. And opponents to the site – which is County-owned land zoned for a homeless shelter back in 2010 on a motion by council member Christina Shea (who seemed to have forgotten she did so) – really need to get their message points together.
From the Voice of OC story:
During Sunday’s Irvine protest, City Councilwoman Christina Shea accused the Board of Supervisors of having “a complete lack of leadership” on the county’s homelessness problem.
“If you can’t lead – if you get elected, and you raise all this money to run for office to get elected, you focus on that job,” Shea said in an interview with Voice of OC at the demonstration, adding her criticisms were about all of the supervisors except Spitzer.
“Part of their call and their duty and their oversight is to protect the homeless and the health services, etcetera. That’s what their [mandate] is [as] county supervisors. If they can’t do that, then I’d tell them resign, and let’s get people in there that really have a concern about our community. Because this homeless population is affecting healthy people, healthy families…law-abiding citizens.”
During the protest Sunday, a least 250 people gathered across the street from the proposed shelter site. They chanted “No Tent City!” and raised signs saying “Protect Our Children,” “No Danger Near OUR SCHOOL!!” and “NO Drugs Near OUR Children!!”
Nelson also noted the Irvine City Council, including Shea, zoned the property for a homeless shelter, under a state law known as SB 2.
“Christina, you zoned it for a homeless shelter,” Nelson said Sunday night. “The city of Irvine…designated this site for a homeless shelter.”
He said the Irvine property was the only county-owned property he’s aware of that’s within an SB 2 homeless shelter designation.
Nelson said Shea herself made the motion to designate the Irvine property for a homeless shelter on March 23, 2010.
In a follow-up interview Sunday night, Shea said she would have to review that vote to refresh her memory, but that the City Council never envisioned it would be agreeing to the site being used for a “tent city” without a contamination cleanup approval from the Navy, nor water, power, and sewage infrastructure.
“Never would I allow the city council to vote for some temporary tent to be built” for “dangerous people” to come off riverbed, without utilities that people would need to function, She said. “I think they’re just spinning a tale.”
Nelson responded by saying the site has already been “cleared by the Navy” and “the only reason it won’t be hooked up to utilities is Irvine won’t want us to.”
Opponents claim the tent city site is near schools, near soccer fields, near homes, on contaminated land, homeless will get cancer, will be full of criminals, shelters have plenty of beds, and if you disagree with them, they ask how many homeless people can we drop off at your house (known as a strawman argument). And Irvine is third in the county when it comes to affordable housing.
Let’s knock these down:
The proposed site is at least a mile away from the nearest elementary school; if you haven’t walked onto the campus of an elementary school while school is in session lately, you are usually met by an aide or a parent volunteer telling you that you have to go to the office first if you are there to get your child or see his or her teacher. None of that will change if homeless people are encamped. I’ll mention there’s no transportation mechanism for homeless to get to a school unless they walk there; and walking on a street in Irvine is not against the law.
The tent city will be near some soccer fields which are busy all day on the weekends but not during the week. Even if the entire homeless encampment decides to watch a game or a practice, that’s not against the law. Should they pan handle, residents can ask them to leave or contact the police.
The area where the tent city is to be placed is far from homes. Most neighborhoods are gated, unlike neighborhoods in Orange/Santa Ana/Anaheim along the river bed. Some HOAs have private security detail. It strikes me that you’re gated community will have unwanted sales pitches from solar panel providers or exterminators rather than encounters with the homeless.
The homeless will get cancer because the land is effectively a Superfund site. I think the homeless would be far more concerned about dying from exposure, hundry, thirst, an untreated medical condition, or physical violence than they are worried about cancer. And if the encampment is on poisonous soil, why are you allowing your kids to play soccer so close to a contaminated site? Why did you buy a home so close to soil contamination?
The encampment is full of criminals; homelessness is not a crime. If there were criminals there, they might be afforded three meals and a cot at the county jail.
The shelters have plenty of beds; they do not. The shelters are at capacity and the armories used for homeless will be unavailable for that purpose by mid-April.
Irvine is third in the county when it comes to affordable housing; Irvine is way behind on the creation of affordable housing. Please do call the city and ask what the wait list is like for affordable housing and then figure out your options. And how is someone who is unemployed, or underemployed and homeless going to be able to pay rent on even low income housing in this city?
Below is an edited transcript of an interaction with a Facebook page administrator that I had over the weekend; her comments are in bold and mine italicized. I have edited for both of our typos and to eliminated her identity because I don’t want her publicly shamed but readers to see the argument. I was banned from this group 10 minutes after joining by asking three simple questions. Hard to have dialogue about an important city issue when opposing views can’t be heard.
Do you think it’s safe for the county to house humans at a site that shouldn’t technically have more than 3 people on site for any more than 8 hours at any time? Are we trying to see which one of those homeless people gets cancer first?
There was more, but you get the idea.