LEGAL AID FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST COUNTY OF ORANGE ON BEHALF OF HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES LIVING AT THE SANTA ANA RIVERBED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LEGAL AID FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST COUNTY OF ORANGE ON BEHALF OF HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES LIVING AT THE SANTA ANA RIVERBED

On February 7, 2018, the Legal Aid Society of Orange County filed a lawsuit against the County of Orange for discriminatory actions taken against homeless individuals with disabilities who currently reside at the Santa Ana Riverbed. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of People’s Homeless Task Force, a homeless advocacy association, and seven homeless individuals who live at the Riverbed.

On January 22, 2018, the County began the process of evicting hundreds of people living at the Riverbed, the majority of whom experience mental or physical disabilities, or both. Although the County had previously committed to relocating every willing homeless person on the Riverbed to appropriate housing and services before requiring them to leave, the County buckled under mounting political pressure and began sweeping the Riverbed even though hundreds of people had not yet accessed the County’s services. The lawsuit alleges that the County’s program and its sudden eviction of Riverbed residents before the program was completed are discriminatory because its actions deny individuals living on the Riverbed access to the benefits of the County’s services by reason of their disabilities.

“My team and I were retained by desperate homeless residents living in substandard conditions with hopes of accessing the services and housing options promised by the County so that they could successfully exit the Riverbed encampments. Despite weeks of working with the County to seek reasonable solutions for our clients, it was clear that County services are so inadequate that they would only cause further harm to individuals with disabilities,” said Lili Graham, Director of Litigation at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County. “The County has identified the complex needs of the homeless in obtaining significant funds from the state and federal governments, yet much of that money has gone unspent. The County must take a hard look at the implementation of its program and work with knowledgeable professionals to create viable long-term solutions for chronically homeless individuals. A mass eviction of the County’s most vulnerable residents is not a solution.”

The lawsuit alleges that Orange County has nearly $700 million in unspent funds available to end homelessness, including $146 million for housing vouchers, $8 million for affordable housing, $67.5 million for mental health treatment and residential care, and nearly $227 million in CalWORKS funding. However, the County’s continued lack of willingness to implement long-term solutions to end homelessness has left these vast funding reserves largely untapped.

Plaintiffs are represented by Lili Graham, Sarah J. Gregory, and Michelle Kim Kotval, attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of Orange County.

Editorial contact: Lili Graham | 714.571.5282 | lgraham@legal-aid.com

About Legal Aid Society of Orange County

The Legal Aid Society of Orange County is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free legal aid services to our community’s most vulnerable populations: veterans, the homeless, families, and low-income individuals. For over 58 years, LASOC has spread its services— advocacy, legal counseling, community education, and legal representation—throughout Orange County and southeast Los Angeles to bring equal access to justice for all.

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