Photos by Brian Addison
“This is irresponsible. This is unconscionable. This is outrageous.”
These were the words of Laguna Niguel Councilmember Linda Lindholm to a crowd of hundreds of Laguna Niguel citizens that had gathered at the sleepy town’s City Hall to discuss one thing this past Tuesday night: homelessness.
And before you think Ms. Lindholm was decrying how we, as a society, have let ourselves fail so many of our fellow brethren, one but has to remember this is Orange County—and what Lindholm (and the hundreds of angry, bitter Lagunians) were calling “unconscionable” was the possibility of creating 100 beds for those experiencing homelessness in Laguna Niguel.
Yes, that was what she deemed was “irresponsible” and “outrageous.” Beds. For homeless folks.
“I have no intention of having this ever endanger our children or our residents,” Lindholm continued. “Don’t move your problem out of Anaheim and put it here.”
This is coming from a former four-time mayor of the city before she was appointed to the council by that very council because, well, nepotism is alive and well in Orange County. But more importantly…
The announcement of a possible shelter with 100 beds being built in the town was made the day before—and Laguna Niguel, joining Irvine and Huntington Beach, two other cities with proposed sites to house our most marginalized, have already enacted litigation. Or, in the case of Huntington Beach, formally directed its City Attorney to stop the project in any way it could.
Yup, they are suing or trying to legally block the County for building beds or housing homeless folks in motels and empty pieces of land (one of which, mind you, is a site that was a former landfill and therefore contaminated with methane; this was used as Huntington Beach’s excuse to shut down the project but, of course, refused to offer another space in exchange for this argument).
Most know this isn’t the first time Orange County has recently shown its entire lack of humanity, compassion, or reason. When they became witness to the Santa Ana River encampment, they became outraged and blamed Long Beach and Los Angeles; now, it seems, they’ve turned onto each other for the first time.
And this Pointing Your Finger Game: OC Edition—a game that, at least when it comes to Orange County, refuses to discuss the issue of housing and mental health—has resulted in a federal judge having to step in to basically inform Orange County officials to act ethically and humanely after they compulsively and forcefully removed thousands of folks experiencing homelessness earlier this from the shelter they had built along the Santa Ana.
In response, Orange County Supervisors announced on March 19 that it would funnely some $75M into mental health advocacy and programs while committing to creating 400 beds for those displaced after the Santa Ana eviction. Of those 400 beds, 200 would initially go into Irvine; should that site fill up, another 100 in Huntington Beach; should that fill up, another 100 in Laguna Niguel.
All three cities have pissed, legally and morally, on these proposals.
You see, homelessness doesn’t fit the mansions-on-the-hills-driven narrative of Orange County, one which frowns upon anything that might show history or age, be it a building or Soccer Mom’s chest, puts chain restaurants and luxury brands on pedestals, prizes cars before humans, and stirs xenophobia at even the slightest hint of criticism.
In other words: homelessness represents the precise opposite of everything those hard-workin’, free trade Capitalists have built on their precious stretch of coast. Confinement and filth don’t mix with wide streets and narrow-minds.
The reality is that Orange County (and LA County and the State) isn’t building housing at a quick enough pace let alone affordable housing, on top of criminalizing low crimes and disinvesting in mental health. Add this onto low-paying jobs, a growing college-educated population that is experiencing homelessness, and a fear of density in Orange County, and you have the perfect recipe for a disaster—a disaster that has nothing to do with liberal or conservative policies or politics, but a genuine lack of compassion and reason.
So it’s up to us, Long Beach and Los Angeles and California to come up with innovative solutions and discussions.
Solutions and discussions that don’t mark homeless folks as a “danger” to our children—my gods, Ms. Lindholm, you metaphorically represent the Wicked Witch of the South with your comments and stronghold on a town that should have never proffered one person that much power for that length of time. Solutions and discussions that revolve more around our compassion and innovation than they do our lazy-driven compulsion to place blame on everyone else.
Whether you want to admit or not, it’s our fault. Poverty is our fault. Homelessness is our fault. And we have to own that before we could ever move forward.