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Judge orders Orange County to respect homeless people's property

The remains of a homeless encampment cleared from land along the Santa Ana River owned by Orange County Public Works, Feb. 8, 2017. A judge ruled on Feb. 24 that the county must take greater pains to protect and store homeless people's property.
The remains of a homeless encampment cleared from land along the Santa Ana River owned by Orange County Public Works, Feb. 8, 2017. A judge ruled on Feb. 24 that the county must take greater pains to protect and store homeless people's property.
Jill Replogle

Homeless people sleeping in the Santa Ana riverbed in Orange County won another legal challenge on Friday — for the second time this month. A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order that requires Orange County to take extra measures to protect homeless people’s belongings. 

The lawsuit filed by advocates for the homeless alleged that county employees have been careless in seizing and discarding property owned by homeless people living along the Santa Ana River.

Earlier this month, the county began removing several hundred people from a flood control area in order to store boulders and sand. 

The judge’s order requires the county to give people 24 hours notice that they need to move their property before seizing it. 

The county must also allow people to retrieve their property anytime during regular business hours. Previously, the Lake Forest maintenance yard where seized property was stored — which is 20 miles away from the main homeless encampment in the riverbed — was open by appointment only, one day a week for one hour, the lawsuit alleged.

The judge ordered the county to store essential items, including tents, sleeping bags and medical documents, within 1 mile of where they were seized.

A court hearing in the case is scheduled for March 6.

In a separate lawsuit, which Orange County settled last week with the ACLU, the county agreed to provide transportation for people to retrieve their belongings from the Lake Forest yard.