Orange County's Biggest ‘Tent City' Being Cleared Out

Orange County Sheriff's deputies and county workers are ordering the hundreds of people living outside near the Santa Ana River to start packing up and get ready to leave.

Sheriff's deputies have made one arrest, a warrant served on a man who was in the riverbed. One woman said she was forced to move out of a similar homeless camp along the Santa Ana River in Fountain Valley so she moved here.

"This is a lifestyle. People here are real people and they're good people most of 'em," said Kenneth Tully, who chose the "tent city life" when he realized he could shower at his gym and not pay rent. He's been homeless for two years.

"People want fair, affordable housing," he said. "It takes too much of a percentage of your income to get a house, to get a place to stay at."

Kathy Schuler has called some part of the riverbed home for two and a half years, ever since her life partner died and left the stay-at-home mom with nothing.

"It's tough," Schuler said. "And I have a granddaughter here."

The deadline has been looming for weeks as public works officials prepare to clean two miles of dirt trails that have become a health hazard, shutting down the area for at least three months.

Kevin Karwelis looks out on the encampments daily.

"Homeless, trash, lots of it dilapidated," he said. "The winds come and it just blows the stuff everywhere. That's what I see."

Deputies are slowly prodding the homeless to leave. The ACLU watches to make sure it's done legally.

Paul Fernandez is watching too.

"They'll come by steal our recyclables, steal our trash cans, "said Fernandez, a business owner. "They stole the hubcaps off my vehicle."

His office is a quarter of a mile away.

There are storage units at Orangewood Avenue. For now outreach groups say they're doing what they can to find services for the folks who must leave.

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