Riverside bans homeless camps in Santa Ana River

In an effort to address the growing population and the increased risk of fire, Riverside City Council has approved a ban on camping or sleeping in areas where undeveloped vegetation runs against homes, including the Santa Ana River bed.

ordinance This makes it illegal to “sit, lie, sleep, or store, use, maintain or possess any heavy object or personal property” in the so-called wildland-urban interface. Before a 6-1 vote on Tuesday night, city officials cited a anti camp ordinance Some areas were designated off limits for camps by the Los Angeles City Council last year; law have criticized To activists who say it criminalizes homelessness.

Councilmember Clarissa Cervantes was not the only vote, citing concerns that there would not be enough shelter for everyone living in the river bed.

exacerbated by extreme drought, Potential “Man-generated” Fires Over the years the river bed has ignited, prompting officials to propose an anticamping ordinance. In the past five years, the Riverside Fire Department has responded to 163 calls for vegetation fires at the bottom of the Santa Ana River, 66% of which were caused by humans, according to one city ​​report,

Riverside has struggled with homelessness for years, allocating $33.5 million of its city budget in 2021-22 to build affordable housing and address the crisis.

In June, the city council approved a five yearly plan To reduce homelessness that includes a “Wildlands Public Safety Engagement Team,” which includes the Riverside Police Department, outreach workers from City Net, and code enforcement officers to try to connect with people living at the Santa Ana River Bottom.

Once shelter and accommodation are available, the team will conduct anticamping enforcement and camp cleaning.

Officials said they would follow a federal court ruling that bars cities from enforcing prohibitive camping ordinances if alternative housing is not available.

The county has identified 3,316 homeless people this year, of whom 59.71% do not have shelter. As more people live on the bottom of the Santa Ana River and in remote canyon areas, the risk of fire has increased.

During Tuesday’s meeting, officials also highlighted the Riverside County Partnership for Homeless Outreach Medicine and Education Program, an alternative criminal punishment program for people who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless.

To qualify for the program, which promotes a treatment-based approach to punishment rather than imprisonment or fines, the person must have been charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor and must be treated by the court, lawyers and the Riverside University Health System-behavior. Must be assessed by health.

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