Under the bridge, and to the river, to a street mother's home we go. A makeshift bridge of wooden pallets connects the opposing sides of this man-made waterway.
In the weeks previous, flood waters flowed above the tops of these tents.
A young woman washes her 'street mother's' inflatable mattress in the city's runoff.
Her matriarch recovers from a recent illness at a hospital nearby.
She decides to clean all of her belongings in preparation for her return.
At the other end of the bridge, an army of chihuahuas guard two women's property.
The two women turn out to be mother and daughter. This is the mother.
As if six Chihuahuas wasn't enough, the mother's son shows up with the seventh.
All of the pups are blood-related, originating from two separate litters.
Like the pups, this family chooses to stick together.
The sun sets, and the city releases the river's flood gates in the morning.
This family will wake up before then to relocate their possessions.
A weekend of intense rain approaches.
Two Months Later...
A tent city is in ruins.
Piles of trash, clothes, and dirty blankets litter the ground.
This is not of their own doing,
but from a local government that wants them gone.
OC Public Works notifies the river's residents that they must relocate.
Fences, boulders, and workers brought to control the oncoming floods.
A string of cars jams the 57 freeway in early evening traffic.
The commuters peer upon the shambled city below.
A stranger trespasses to bring hot soup to the residents.
Spare tires, rims, and bike frames line a chain linked fence.
Angry threats spit through the slits of a green tarp.
They remind me cameras are not welcome.
I exchange words with a hooded man.
Four figures wait behind a torn tarp,
and I don't feel safe.
I retreat to an opening in the fence.
My illusion of utopia is broken.
I return only once more...
At the heart of this story lies the human rights crisis of homelessness. Causes of homelessness can vary anywhere from substance abuse, mental illness, and disability to job loss, divorce, or a simple lack of affordable housing. According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, approximately 2.3-3.5 million people experience homelessness annually within the United States. These figures may come as a surprise considering that the United States has created the most billionaires, and represents the 8th highest Gross National Income per Capita in the world. Despite the substantial resources available in this great country, countless individuals and families find they cannot meet their own basic needs. I have chosen to raise awareness for this critical human rights issue by contrasting the disparity in wealth between our nation’s richest and poorest citizens.
If you are interested in volunteering or making a donation to aid the homeless along the Santa Ana River, check out the resources below. If you are a resident of Anaheim or Santa Ana, I highly recommend attending a city council meeting to discuss with your local representatives permanent solutions to these longstanding issues.
Illumination Foundation's mission is to provide targeted, interdisciplinary services for the most vulnerable homeless clients in order to break the cycle of homelessness.
Phone: (949) 273-0555
Mercy House provides housing and comprehensive supportive services for a variety of homeless populations which includes families, adult men and women, mothers and their children, persons living with HIV/AIDS, individuals overcoming substance addictions, and some who are physically and mentally disabled.
Armory Emergency Shelter
The Orange County Cold Weather Armory Emergency Shelter program provides up to 400 beds per night for the homeless at the National Guard Armories in Fullerton and Santa Ana (Note: Santa Ana Location on available for families with children).
Information Line: 714-836-7188 ext 131
400 S. Brookhurst, Fullerton
Santa Ana Armory
612 E Warner, Santa Ana
Orange County Health Care Agency
Behavioral Health Outreach and Engagement
Information and referral line provides telephone and online support for anyone seeking information or linkages to any of the Health Care Agency's Behavioral Health Services. Information Line: 855-OC-Links (625-4657)