Orange County’s Forbidden City

Author: Chris Rusnaowsky / Feb 1, 2018


Video Credit: Camilo Ramirez

One of the largest encampments in the United States stands on a flood control riverbed near Anaheim Stadium, California. The growing numbers of makeshift camps have caught attention from the public and city officials. This encampment stretches over 6 miles from the Santa Ana River Trail to Ball Road and has over 500 campers on the county property.

On January 22, 2018, the OC Sheriffs department started the eviction process of the homeless encampment. “We’re not going to come in with an Army of Deputies and force everybody off in 24 hours,” said Undersheriff Don Barnes at press conference. City employees could be seen conducting a routine collection of orange trash bags that were provided to the homeless and loading them in the back of trucks to keep control of waste build ups.


Orange County workers collect orange trash bags, that was placed by the homeless residents for disposal. 01/22/2018 Anaheim, CA – Photo: Chris Rusanowsky / The Sprawl

The Sheriff’s department posted eviction notices on encampments and fence poles to inform the homeless that the eviction would take place on January 22nd. “I saw the notices, but did not read it.” one homeless woman said. Later in the afternoon, some homeless campers started making preparations to move. A man working on a small go-kart engine said he was away from his camp for a week and was unaware of the eviction. As he primed the small engine and pulled to start, he said: “I don’t know where I will go and don’t know what to do with my belongings.”

A number of shelters and organizations have teamed up with the counties eviction by offering services to the homeless. A county contractor by the name of City Net has helped 171 people with case management services according to the data provided by the county. Beds are offered to the homeless at Courtyard Shelter in Santa Ana and Bridges at Kraemer in Anaheim year around.


Ishmael Haring, from Kanas City, Kanas, has been living on the Anaheim Encampment for a year. Ishmael moved to Southern California for College in business. After struggling with a drug addiction he found himself living on the streets. Ishmael is focusing on positive things in his life, such as a film he is making called; “Empire of Ghosts” using a smartphone to document the encampment and the people living in it. 01/22/2018 Anaheim, CA – Photo: Chris Rusanowsky / The Sprawl

With the issue of a short number of beds available, a season emergency shelter called Fullerton Armory has offered 237-floor mats, warm meals, showers and a shuttle service to transport the homeless to the Armory before operation hours. Mercy House told us that only one individual has used the shuttle, but that a large line is formed at 7 pm, the armories opening hour.

This begs the question: Where will the remaining homeless go? “There are 35 counties that enforce anti-camping ordinance and criminalize sleeping in public spaces” Eve Garrow, a homelessness policy analyst and advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union said.


MJ, was a profession commercial diver at one point of his life. In 2009 he was shot in the head with a .44 mm bullet, by an home intruder and survived. He was unable to work after that the tragedy, being out of work lead MJ to live in the encampment for two years.

MJ, a commercial welding diver that lost his job after being shot in the head during a house invasion in 2009.“I refuse to stay in a place that runs like a dictatorship,” he said. “Telling me when to sleep, when to eat, when to use the restroom and when I can leave. That’s not what my forefathers and kinfolk bled and died for. They don’t want to see us in the parks, by the malls so where are we supposed to go?”

Homeless advocates have sued Orange County. The Lawsuit was filed by the Elder Law & Disability Rights Center. The lawsuit accuses the county of violating the Civil Rights of the homeless. Advocates hope to stopping the clearance until there’s enough housing for the homeless. Todd Spitzer, a California State Assembly Member, stated in a previous press hearing that he expected to be sued after the clearance. Spitzer said his data reveals the homeless don’t want services. Homeless advocates dispute the Sheriff’s statistics that 81% of homeless are interested in case management services that lead to housing.

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