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SCV deputies make sweep of homeless encampment

Posted: June 27, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 27, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s deputies have broken up a homeless encampment in the Santa Clara River wash near Bouquet Creek and Valencia Boulevard, arresting some of the denizens, a spokesman for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said Thursday.

A team led by deputies from the COPS Bureau, a specialized division of the Sheriff’s Department, worked with local deputies to clean up a section of the wash in response to complaints from citizens and businesses, said SCV sheriff’s Deputy Josh Dubin.

“We’ve had a number of citizens express concern and a number of local businesses express the same concerns,” he said.

COPS Bureau deputies worked “collectively to police the riverbed environment throughout the area northwest of the Valencia Boulevard and Bouquet Canyon Road intersection,” according to a news release issued by sheriff’s deputies.

Deputies did not disclose how many homeless people were taken into custody and cited in their sweep.

“Numerous violators were cited and will be required to appear in court,” the release said.

Most of those arrested were cited under sections of California’s Penal Code that pertain to “illegal lodging” and being “on city land without permission,” said Dubin.

Response to complaints

The sweep June 19 was the latest in a series of regular responses to complaints about homeless people camping out in the Santa Clara River bed, said Santa Clarita city spokeswoman Gail Morgan.

“The sheriff regularly does a sweep of the river,” she said Thursday. “It is in response to complaints that we receive regarding homeless encampments in the river.

“We work in tandem with the Sheriff’s Station,” she said.

City officials work with variety of help organizations in addressing the individual needs of each homeless person, she said.

Some of the agencies that regularly help in the sweeps and follow-ups include the Department of Mental Health, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Veteran’s Affairs, Volunteers of America, Behavioral Health Services, and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Officials representing the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, based in Los Angeles, accompany deputies on visits to local homeless encampments, a spokesman for the agency said.

“We met with them. We went to the (homeless) camps a couple of months ago,” said George McQuade, adding authority representatives visited three such encampments.

“Two camps were abandoned, but these are the same people,” McQuade said. “They just move to another place.”

Authority representatives accompanied COPS Bureau deputies and “other social services personnel” in carrying out patrol checks of homeless encampment areas over the last several months, according to the news release issued by the sheriff’s station.

Advance warning
During their checks, they found that the area is inhabited by transients who use the area as living space. These areas are filled with trash, debris, human waste and personal property.

“The transient population in the river bed area has been an ongoing concern for an extended period of time,” sheriff’s deputies said in the release. “For the past several months, numerous agencies were brought together in an attempt to aid the homeless in the transition out of homelessness.”

Typically, deputies notify the homeless authority and authority representatives, in turn, warn the homeless about the impending sweep.

“They give us a couple of weeks notice,” McQuade said. “This gives us time to tell them, ‘They’re going to do a sweep. Get your personal items together.’”

Numerous homeless people were contacted and offered housing, medical treatment and substance abuse assistance to aid in the transition out of homelessness, sheriff’s deputies said in their news release.

Several homeless people took advantage of the services offered, but a large percentage refused assistance, the release said.

“We have a team of mental health experts that take part in outreach programs,” said Blake Anderson, spokesman for Department of Veterans Affairs in the Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

Locally, homeless people are offered help by agencies based in the Santa Clarita Valley such as Bridge To Home, Family Promise and Lutheran Social Services, said Morgan.

“We provide follow-up services for them,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re not just cleaning out the river but providing social services as are applicable to each situation.

“The help depends on the individual,” she said. “But they’re out of the river for sure.”
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