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Anaheim Declares State Of Emergency Over Homeless Issue

SANTA ANA ( — Frustrations were bubbling over in Anaheim where the city council voted to declare a state of emergency over the issue of homelessness in the early morning hours Wednesday following a tense meeting that lasted hours.

There were heated words inside the Anaheim City Council chamber — pitting neighbor against neighbor — as activists and others came to share their views on a tent city in the shadow of Angel Stadium where about 422 homeless people live.

The city council finally voted unanimously to declare a health and safety state of emergency. This will allow the city to work with Orange County to "open emergency shelters, increase outreach services and expand law enforcement and public safety along the river trail," according to a statement from the council Wednesday.

"Where are our rights? I don't want to see people with feces in my yard, needles in my yard," one woman calling for a solution told the council.

The measure is largely symbolic, since no specific amount of funds would be devoted to dealing with the issue. But city officials say it allows Anaheim to open up more shelter beds and resources to help those in the tent cities get back on their feet.

"The only solution to homelessness is housing, we encourage the council to commit funding to housing solutions," a woman said.

Earlier in the day the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to approve stepped up policing along the Santa Ana River Trail.

"The crisis in the river bed puts those living in the camps at risk as well as those in the communities," Murray said during the daytime meeting. "There are criminal elements taking hold in these areas. Threatening the homeless and residents. We have our own winter storm season coming and the flood control channel presents risk for lives who are there."

Anaheim City Councilman Stephen Faessel had stern words for Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

"Mr. Supervisor I'm gonna hold you personally responsible for my residents, for my District 5 residents, they wanna see something happen, they want it now," Faessel said.

On Tuesday, Spitzer announced a plan is to eventually push the transients out of the riverbed areas in Santa Ana and Anaheim and help them get back on their feet elsewhere.

The council is also urging other cities in Orange County to help with resources.

The board voted June 6 to direct staff to come up with a plan for law enforcement in the area, which is owned by the Orange County Flood Control District, a separate legal entity.

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