FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — An exodus began Friday at the Santa Ana River as authorities moved in to evict more than 100 people living in a straggling homeless encampment along the concrete flood control channel.
Orange County sheriff’s deputies, public works employees and police from neighboring cities moved in to enforce orders to leave a 6-mile-long stretch of dirt trail along the river from Adams Avenue to 17th street. They planned to return Saturday.
People living nearby have been complaining about trash, drug use and other problems at the camp, which had swollen since transients began moving in about a year ago. It was estimated that 150 to 200 people lived there but some already had left.
Residents packed up tents, dismantled makeshift shacks and stuffed bedding and other belongings on bicycles or their backs.
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Some people stayed up the night before the deadline to pack.
“It’s been a night from hell,” Kristin Bennett, who has been homeless for two years, told the Los Angeles Times. “But I think I’ll be all right. I’ve done this so many times. All of this is just stuff.”
“Mermaid” Morgan Gallerito, who had lived at the camp for months, wore a sparkly strapless cocktail dress and bare feet as she hauled plastic bags.
“Just because it’s an ugly day doesn’t mean I have to be ugly,” she told the Times.
The county gave notice about two weeks ago that it planned to enforce a ban on overnight stays in the area and to close the west side of the river for flood-control maintenance that was deferred by the encampment.
Some shelters were available and some people planned to move north to a larger encampment along the river near Angel Stadium that isn’t covered by the county orders.
Bridget Powers, 51, said she came to the encampment in July after she was evicted from a room for failure to pay her $100 rent.
The camp was a community, she told the Orange County Register.
“No matter if we pissed off each other, it’s about community,” she said. “Nobody goes hungry.”
Others had no idea where they would sleep.
“We don’t have homes, but we have to live somewhere, and they don’t want us living here, but they don’t us to live on the street, so I don’t know what to do,” Bryan Basco told KABC-TV .
“Mermaid” Morgan told the station she also was unsure where she would go.
“Just to the next spot on the sidewalk somewhere, cause not here,” she said.