SANTA ANA, Calif. – Southern California officials and homeless advocates have sparred for months over the fate of hundreds of homeless people living in tents on a bike trail that winds along a riverbed to the Pacific Ocean.
Now, both sides are facing a critical court hearing Tuesday over a lawsuit aimed at blocking Orange County from shutting down the 2-mile-long (3-kilometer-long) encampment.
Homeless residents and their advocates have argued that officials can’t shut down the camp without providing adequate housing options — especially because many wound up living there after police in nearby cities booted them from streets and sidewalks.
“We could solve the problem — we have the land and we have the money,” said Brooke Weitzman, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “It is not a place where we have a bunch of homeless people and we really have no alternatives for them.”
The lawsuit is being watched by homeless advocates in West Coast cities and elsewhere amid a rise in homelessness and growth of encampments. Tens of thousands of people are sleeping on the streets from Seattle to San Diego, a problem caused in part by soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy.
“These are issues that are being litigated around the country,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “What the court decides may be used by these litigants and may be looked to by other courts, even if it is not binding.”
Orange County, which is home to 3.2 million people between Los Angeles and San Diego, told homeless campers in late January that they would need to start moving. Deputies patrolled the area near the Los Angeles Angels stadium to tell people about the move and offer help storing belongings and finding other shelter.
When homeless advocates heard the county was going to step up efforts to relocate tent-dwellers, they sought protection from the courts. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter temporarily blocked officials from arresting those who refused to move — at least until after the hearing in federal court in Santa Ana.
Deputies still patrol the trail for criminal activity but are no longer encouraging people to leave, said Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Since relocation efforts began, about 30 percent of tents have been moved, she said.
Officials said the trail is in paltry condition. Workers collected more than 400 pounds (181 kilograms) of human waste and more than 2,200 syringes in a two-week period, according to court filings by county attorneys.
They said a nearby shelter has never reached full capacity and that the homeless were given notice that the trail would be closed for cleanup.
“The Constitution does not recognize, nor have plaintiffs provided any authority for, the right of a person to adversely possess public property merely by setting down their belongings,” Marianne Van Riper, senior assistant county counsel, wrote in court documents.
The county faced another lawsuit filed last week alleging that closing the encampment violates the rights of disabled people living there.
India: Head of ‘world’s largest family’ Ziona Chana dies – leaving behind 39 wives and 94 children | World News
A man said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in northeastern India.
Ziona Chana had 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren – all of whom lived together in a four-storey pink house with about 100 rooms in Baktawng in Mizoram state.
The 76-year-old was the leader of a local Christian sect, named Chana, founded by his father in 1942 and with a current membership of hundreds of families.
Ziona married his first wife when he was 17 and claimed he once married 10 women in a year.
They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.
The chief minister of Mizoram confirmed his death on Twitter, saying the village of Baktawng had become a “major tourist attraction” because of the family.
With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count Mr Chana’s grandchildren.
In a 2011 interview with Reuters, Ziona said: “I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry.
“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”
Vladimir Putin: ‘Where is the proof’ Russia is waging a cyber war against the United States? | World News
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has denied claims his country is waging a cyber war against the United States.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, the Russian president rebuffed accusations Russian hackers, or the government itself, is using technological warfare against America – as baseless.
He said claims his country was involved in cyber attacks had become “farcical”, asking: “Where is the evidence? Where is the proof?”
“We have been accused of all kinds of things: election interference, cyber attacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof,” he said.
Evidence has been put forward by US intelligence services of Russian hackers targeting the federal government and meddling in US elections.
Mr Putin also denied ordering the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Pressed on whether he had any involvement, he said: “Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president.”
Russian intelligence services have been accused of poisoning Mr Navalny, who survived the incident but now remains in a Russian prison.
Asked whether the former opposition leader would make it out of prison alive, Mr Putin said: “He will not be treated any worse than anybody else.”
Mr Putin’s comments come just two days before he and Joe Biden are due to sit down for talks in Geneva on Wednesday.
The US president will be fresh from his meeting with NATO leaders, who have signalled that Russia remains a security risk to Western allies.
In his interview with NBC, Mr Putin said Russia would be willing to engage with other countries including the US and would value “predictability and stability”.
The Russian president has made no secret that he supported Mr Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who he called “extraordinary” and “talented”.
Mr Putin and Mr Biden have had somewhat more rocky relations, with the current US president agreeing when asked whether he thought the Russian president was a killer.
When this was put to Mr Putin, he replied: “Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles. And none of it surprises me.”
Finke Desert Race crash: Spectator killed and two injured at Australian off-road event | World News
A man has died and two others have been injured after a car crashed into spectators during a race in Australia.
The car, which was taking part in the 285-mile (460km) Finke Desert Race, struck a group of people around 22 miles (35km) from the finish.
A 60-year-old man died at the scene.
A man in his 50s was seriously injured and taken to Alice Springs Hospital, while the driver, a woman in her 50s, suffered minor injuries, Northern Territory police confirmed.
Police have issued an appeal for information as they continue to investigate the circumstances.
Motorsport Australia issued a statement calling it “tragic news” and offering “sympathies to the families, friends and all those impacted”.
The governing body also said it would begin its own investigation and provide counselling to all competitors, officials and people associated with the race.
The track is described on its website as having a “reputation for being one of the most difficult off-road courses in one of the most remote places in the world”.
The two-day off-road, multi-terrain race for motorcycles, cars, buggies and quads through desert country between Alice Springs and the town of Aputula, also known as Finke, takes place every June.
The car section of the race has now been cancelled.
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