Students protest homeless displacement at Santa Ana Civic Center


Brad West, a junior political science major and president of Chapman Democrats, holds two signs out for passing cars to read. Photo by Madeleine Caraluzzi

Four Chapman students, a student from Fullerton City College, a few activists and a retired school teacher gathered in front of the Santa Ana Civic Center Feb. 24 to protest the displacement of homeless people from their encampment at the Santa Ana riverbed.

With 10 people in attendance, the group stood by the intersection in front of the Civic Center armed with signs to draw attention to their cause.

“Right now, we want to get the county to act, keep going down to the riverbed, handing out waters and making sure (the homeless are) safe and their needs are met,” said Atty McLellan, a junior peace studies and political science major. “What we’re trying to emphasize is that this is about them, not us, and that (the homeless people) are at the center of this movement.”

McLellan said that she and Brad West, also a junior political science major, decided to start a Facebook page called #StopTheRocks after they organized a group of people to protest the displacement of the homeless population at the Santa Ana riverbed Feb. 9.

“I was on Facebook and I saw an article written by a reporter who was just here from the OC Weekly,” McLellan said. “It was calling the county out on what they’re doing with the homeless people. I was really angry and I asked Brad what we should do. He said, ‘Let’s go down there tomorrow and try to stop it.’”

Many people honked from their cars in approval, and one homeless woman and man held signs with the people gathered and stood with them in protest.

Carolynn Schmahl, a Chapman alumna, took part in the protest against the treatment of the homeless population. Photo by Madeleine Caraluzzi

“I honestly think that the Santa Ana (homeless) people should have kept their area a lot cleaner than what they had going on over there,” said Jonathan, one of the homeless men watching the gathering who declined to give his last name. “I’ve been homeless for a little, but I’m a firm believer that that doesn’t mean I should be walking around in clothes that are five days old, or that I have to invade somebody else’s private space for my benefit.”

Jonathan said that the other homeless people in the Civic Center courtyard, where some homeless have gathered after being forced to leave the Santa Ana riverbed two weeks ago, don’t behave well and encroach upon his space and belongings, causing him to be roaming about on the streets.

Orange County Public Information Manager Carrie Braun told The Panther Feb. 9 that the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orange County Health Care Agency have been sending outreach teams to the Santa Ana riverbed encampment to help people during the transition.

Braun also said that homeless people are not being directed to the Civic Center, but rather to a nearby Santa Ana shelter.

“I think the government programs aren’t working,” said Michael, a homeless man who has been displaced from the Santa Ana riverbed to the area near the Civic Center. “It’s a giant waste of taxpayer money and they should look into that.”

Michael also declined to provide his last name.

Sarah Wallace, a retired school teacher who attended the sit-in, visited the Santa Ana riverbed and befriended a homeless woman there who she is helping out.

“They’re sending social workers to help people living in ditches? This is insanity. Get them a house first, and then try to help them with their psychological problems,” Wallace said. “Of course, they have psychological problems, who doesn’t? But even if you’re sane going down to the riverbeds, you will be insane within a few days living in such conditions.”

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