Gritty details from the cleanup of a homeless encampment in Southern California were revealed Thursday — and the numbers were stunning.
According to the figures, public works crews in Orange County collected 404 tons of debris, 13,950 needles, and 5,279 pounds of human waste during a massive overhaul between Jan. 22 and March 3, the Orange County Register reported.
The specter of the ever-increasing homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River Trail had drawn the ire of local residents, prompting city officials to take action.
Todd Spitzer, who sits on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and led an effort to address the growing encampment, says he felt compelled to take a different course than other major cities in California that have been experiencing growing homeless populations.
“It’s becoming part of the permanent landscape in those communities and there is no way we are going to allow Orange County land that is supposed to be used by residents to be occupied by the homeless,” Spitzer said.
“(T)here is no way we are going to allow Orange County land that is supposed to be used by residents to be occupied by the homeless.”
The decision to move forward with the clearing drew praise from many residents but drew backlash from civil rights advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The encampment, located in the heart of Orange County, stretched from Interstate 5 in Orange to Ball Road in Anaheim along a bike trail, according to a spokesperson for Orange County Public Works.
About 700 people had been living in the encampments when the dismantling began in late February, the Register reported. Many have been temporarily placed in motels while municipal workers assess their needs.
Further overhauls will be made to remove 2 to 3 inches of soil along the bike trail, and trees will be trimmed. The trail will also be refurbished, including sealed cracks and the application of slurry seal, the spokesperson said.