City of Santa Ana Alleges Breach of Homeless Settlement Agreement by County of Orange

Date: September, 01 2020 Category: City Manager

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sept. 1, 2020

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Paul Eakins

Public Affairs Information Officer

(714) 647-5224

peakins@santa-ana.org

 

The County continues to transport homeless individuals into Santa Ana and has failed to provide sufficient services outside of the city, the amended complaint alleges.

 

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The County of Orange has breached a settlement agreement by transporting homeless individuals into Santa Ana from across Orange County and failing to do its fair share to provide homeless services, the City of Santa Ana alleges in an amended complaint filed on Monday, Aug. 31.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this crisis as the County has implemented overly restrictive admission restrictions at its shelter in Santa Ana and reduced the number of County shelter beds, leaving more homeless individuals unsheltered in the city, the complaint states.

 

These and other actions by the County have resulted in the City of Santa Ana, which has the highest Latino population and one of the lowest median household incomes in Orange County, bearing an inequitable share of the responsibility for addressing the countywide homelessness crisis. The City has diverted millions of dollars from programs and services on which residents depend in order to address the disproportionate share of homeless people living in Santa Ana, the City alleges.

 

After numerous attempts to seek assistance from the County in the City’s efforts to relieve homelessness, the City had no other choice but to file suit.

 

The First Amended Complaint and writ of mandamus in Case No. 8:20-cv-00069-DOC (KESx) was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division. The complaint names the County of Orange as defendant. The lawsuit was originally filed on Jan. 13, 2020.

 

This legal action follows a July 23, 2019, settlement agreement between the County and Orange County Catholic Worker that required the County to adhere to certain guidelines for the operation of its shelters. It also prohibited the Orange County Sheriff’s Department from transporting individuals experiencing homelessness across the boundaries of the County’s three Service Planning Areas.

 

Although Santa Ana is not a party to the OCCW Settlement Agreement, Santa Ana is a third-party beneficiary of the agreement and entitled to relief for breach of contract because it was intended that Santa Ana would benefit from the Settlement Agreement.

 

Allegations in the amended complaint include:

  • The County has engaged in the de facto transportation of homeless individuals across Service Planning Area boundaries to Santa Ana by arresting and transporting them to the County Intake Release Center located in Santa Ana, where they are released rather than being transported to their cities of arrest.
  • The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has admitted that it “does not keep statistics related to the transportation of homeless individuals,” making it impossible to track OCSD’s compliance with the OCCW Settlement Agreement’s prohibition on transportation across Service Planning Area boundaries.
  • The Courtyard, a County shelter in Santa Ana, no longer provides sufficient access to beds, which has increased the number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in Santa Ana.
  • The County has failed to build additional shelters and has caved to pressure from wealthier, whiter cities in South County, rescinding its plans to open shelters in those communities.
  • Due to the disproportionate growth in the number of people experiencing homelessness in Santa Ana as compared to the county as a whole, Santa Ana has incurred millions of dollars in expenses and diverted resources. The City spent an estimated $25.4 million to address homelessness-related issues in the 2019-20 fiscal year and has increased the number of police officers devoted to issues relating to homelessness from one to nine in three years.

 

The City of Santa Ana is seeking monetary damages from the County to reimburse the City for money spent on homeless resources and related services.

 

The City additionally is seeking an injunction and order that includes:

  • Prohibiting the County from transporting homeless individuals across Service Planning Area boundaries into Santa Ana and requiring the County to track the number of any homeless individuals who are transported;
  • Requiring that the County impose less restrictive entry requirements at The Courtyard and provide additional low-barrier emergency shelter(s) outside of Santa Ana;
  • Requiring that the County Intake Release Center in Santa Ana permanently institute policies providing for transportation of releasees to the city in which they were arrested; and
  • Requiring the County to improve access to existing shelters in Orange County and open additional shelters in parts of the county other than Santa Ana.

 

Copies of the complaint are available by emailing peakins@santa-ana.org.

 

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