Written by Scott Sowle Oct. 28, 2006

This past week saw law enforcement in Contra Costa County California evict the homeless from their camps.

The sweep of the homeless camps included officers from six police agencies which included the California Highway Patrol. The operation had a total of 22 law officers to boot the homeless campers.

The homeless dwellers were given a 48 hour notice to vacate or be arrested on Tuesday. On Thursday law enforcement agencies returned to enforce the camper's evictions.

The Mercury News reported that Lt. Jon King of the Park Police stated, "Authorities want to break the cycle that keeps homeless people moving from one city to another as they are ordered out of one area."

Some homeless campers were contacted by outreach works and explained where they could receive services including shelter on Tuesday and some of the service workers returned on Thursday.

The main concern for the shelters was that they wouldn't have enough beds for all of the displaced homeless campers.

Susan Prather director of the Fresh Start program in Walnut Creek said, "If you close the camps and don't have any shelter beds, where will these people go?"

The operation was supported by Cynthia Belon director of Contra Costa County's homeless program and she stated, "This is a humanitarian approach."

I was concerned that this operation would build more distrust from the homeless in service providers and law enforcement agencies. I attempted to contact Ms. Belon about the concern, but still await a reply.

Susan Prathers was also contacted. Ms. Prathers stated that there were 34, or more, homeless people contacted and there were 6 shelter beds offered. A total of 10 were arrested Thursday, two for outstanding warrants and 8 others were arrested, cited and released. "The people were scattered to the wind," wrote Susan, "and they were told not to come back to the area where the camps were." She felt the police action was "an outrage".

The show of enforcement may have had an effect on the homeless to just push them deeper into the bush. The counties in the area have been putting together plans to help end chronic homelessness but this recent activity may have been the wrong approach.

(c) SL Streets 2005