Homeless encampment a growing problem for Fountain Valley residents who say police, government ignore

My neighbor is from Orange county originally, he received photos by family confirming this, we were discussing it last night.

The Orange County Register – by Greg Mellen

FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Jonathan An, a homeowner in the New Chase condominiums off Harbor Boulevard, points to a jacuzzi in the gated community.

“They bathe here a lot,” he said, referring to his new neighbors who live in a large homeless encampment that has sprung up on the banks of the Santa Ana River bordering his complex.  

Another condo resident points to a roll of toilet paper and makeshift bathroom within three feet of a gate the residents have for accessing the river trail – which most now avoid.

Jennifer London said she feels it is no longer safe to use the gate. She said she has had bottles thrown at her when she tries to exit and was accosted by a man swinging a rake at her.

She also had a bike stolen off her first-floor patio and resorted to installing a floor-to-ceiling trellis to keep out intruders, she said.

A homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River in Fountain Valley, California, on Tuesday, August 1, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Jeanina Cole said she woke up one day to the unobstructed view of a tent just 12 feet from her front door. The tent has since been moved, but the memory is vivid.

On a Friday afternoon, a dozen residents of the complex gathered to swap stories about how their lives have been thrown into turmoil since the homeless people have started camping nearby.

These residents say they are the population that has been forgotten and left out of the homeless debate.

The homeowners also say that despite their many compaints, including appearing at a recent Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears both with government and law enforcement officials.

“We have never, ever, ever, ever seen anything like this,” Cole said of the influx of people living in the encampment. She was unnerved enough, she said she bought a high-powered set of lights with motion sensors.

She said her upstairs neighbor had a bottle of urine thrown at her and has since installed video surveillance.

Nearly everyone in the complex, it seems, has a story.

While expressing  sympathy for the homeless, the residents say their new neighbors are a rowdier and rougher crowd than they are accustomed to. And, while other cities have been dealing for some time with a growing population along the river, this is relatively new for Fountain Valley, they said.

Jeanina Cole said she feels the residents are out of options and have been ignored by local police and government.

“We’re at our wit’s end,” An said. “The Fountain Valley police don’t want to come out and they tell us not to file reports.”

Police Chief Kevin Childe said discouraging a citizen from filing a report would be a violation of department policy. But, he said, “being homeless is not a crime.”

Childe said he is unaware of any spike in reports from New Chase or nearby areas.

“I have done data analysis all along the river and I wouldn’t be comfortable attributing crime to the people on the river bed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fountain Valley officials say they do not have authority over the riverbank.

“The problem we have is that’s county property,” Mayor John Collins said. “If they come into Fountain Valley, then we can enforce laws, that’s for sure.”

The county has been stymied by legal challenges from nonprofits and homeless advocates when it has tried to remove the homeless from the riverbed and other areas.

Most of the homeless moved in near the condo complex after they were required to leave property to the south near the Los Caballeros Sports Village when Orange County Public Works crews began making repairs along the trail.

Wallace Rodecker, managing owner of Los Cab, said his community suffered many of the same problems as New Chase, including vandalism, break-ins and other problems that hadn’t previously been experienced in the area.

According to Rodecker, when the homeless first arrived, they were a sympathetic, older crowd. But that didn’t last.

“Shortly after there was a massive influx,” he said. “They were younger and most were on drugs. At the same time, we saw a massive increase in crime.”

According to Rodecker, four apartment residents moved, one owner sold and about 20 members left the sports club. The club hired extra security to handle the homeless problem.

Although the encampment has moved, Rodecker said he knows it could return.

Julie, a homeless woman who did not want to give her last name, said she has been fighting a losing battle to maintain her sobriety. However, she said she works hard to keep her encampment clean and anonymous.

“I’m not here to party and have a good time,” she said.

Julie and several friends live in a smaller encampment and Julie said she wants to avoid “the drama” with some of her neighbors.

Nearly all the homeless spoken to along the stretch between Edinger Avenue and Harbor Boulevard said they arrived in the area after they were forced to move by the county’s repairs to the river path south of Warner Avenue.

The homeless encampments are in three primary grouping with about 100 tents total. There are dome tents, tarps, one guy has a large “California National Guard” canopy at the entrance to his dwelling.

There are bicycle parts everywhere, litter and clothes. No recyclable bottles or cans, though. Those are currency. Along the riverbank there are bags of garbage awaiting pick-up from the county, which collects the trash.

Alan Black and his wife, Lisa, have an encampment with a living room off their sleeping area and a cooking area in the back. The living room has river rocks, a mantle, love seat and a table with lamp and flowers.

Alan Black said before he lost his home in Midway City not long ago, he had never pitched a tent. He said he collects medical disability and his wife works as a cashier at a discount store.

“We’re not all bad,” Lisa Black said. “We’re not all on drugs.”

However enough are, said the residents of New Chase, to make their lives almost unbearable.

An said the community’s homeowners association is considering options for heightening its fences. He said he would also like to see efforts increased to house the homeless.

Rodecker said campsites should be set up with tents, showers and mail.

“It shouldn’t be Shangri-La, but the county has the land,” he said. “There’s no possibility for someone living on the Santa Ana River to get out of that.”

But some, like Alan Black, are relatively at ease.

Although water and electricity would be nice, he said the riverbank, where the homeless are mostly out of sight, is the best solution.

“What do they want to do,” he asked, “put us in the city?”



6 thoughts on “Homeless encampment a growing problem for Fountain Valley residents who say police, government ignore

  1. This is so infuriating! Now we have almost another half million homeless in Texas. Drugs courtesy of this fraudulent ‘government’

  2. This river bed is probably 20 miles plus long . Bunch of homeless all along the Santa Ana riverbed. It goes right by LA Angels stadium .My wife and I have donated a few years of freeze dried food to our church which helps these people. The Bolsheviks will have their hands full when the people here stand up.

  3. I’m so glad I made it out of the metro city.

    My life is hard.

    In fact it’s harder then it ever was.

    But being off the grid away from people.

    I have a greater respect for nature.

    I love the sounds of humming birds.

    The smell of the sagebrush on a cool morning.

    No helicopters flying around with a flood light chasing people.

    No sirens from the fire stations…ambulances ..metro police.

    Or people knocking on my door like the people in the Jehovah’s witness protection program.

    The garbage truck doesn’t wake me up anymore.

    Only howling coyotes…and they don’t show up every Thursday at 7:30 a.m.

    But there are sacrifices.

    No indoor plumbing.

    Crapping in a home depot bucket for almost 4 years.

    Bugs…snakes..mice… and those fking flies.

    But I’m living off the sun and wind and my own water.

    The nights are clear… I can see every star.
    The moon is glowing so bright.

    So I humble myself…

    I have to think…

    How did we get here…?

    Today was a weird one.

    I was going into town to score cigarettes and booze.

    Underneath the bridge overpass was a young white female… she looked like a guy.

    It looked like she had a baby stroller with her.

    So I rolled up on her and asked her if she was ok.

    Probably a run away teen from crappy parents.

    Out in the middle of fkng no where.

    She said her name was Amanda.

    So I gave her a 20 dollar bill..

    She said…you don’t have to do that.

    I said…I know…that’s why I’m doing it.

  4. There is a quote in the bible Katie.

    I think it says from Jesus.

    Until you can see from one eye.

    Maybe you can cut and paste it for me.

    I’m internet handicapped.

    1. flee, here you go. 🙂
      Matthew 6
      22The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

      24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

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