SANTA ANA (AP) — After a rare weekend hearing presided by a federal judge, officials in a Southern California county have agreed to extend motel stays “on a case-by-case basis” for hundreds of homeless people who were removed in a massive sweep from a riverbed stretch in February.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter invited all parties, including mayors and city managers from Orange County’s 34 cities, to Saturday’s hearing because homelessness is a countywide issue, according to his written hearing invitation, the Los Angeles Times reported .
It’s the latest development in an extraordinary effort by government, advocates and a federal judge to help the growing numbers of homeless in Orange County. The county is home to Disneyland and considered one of America’s wealthiest.
More than 700 homeless people were moved to county motels last month under a court-supervised deal after advocates sued to protect the rights of evicted tent-dwellers from a 2-mile stretch (3.2 kilometers) along the Santa Ana River.
The 30-day motel vouchers expired starting last Friday.
Andrew Do, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, announced what he called a “big concession” at 5 p.m., after more than five hours of meetings between attorneys for the homeless and county staff.
“This is not a blanket extension,” he said.
Do said county officials will help relocate up to 100 people a day. Officials will share the locations in advance with advocates for the homeless so they have time to challenge moves they do not feel are a good fit for the individual.
The federal case in the county of 3.2 million people between Los Angeles and San Diego is being watched by advocates in other cities also grappling with growing homelessness amid soaring housing costs.