When the ACLU of Southern California released a report revealing horrific living conditions in three Orange County-funded emergency shelters, the world paid attention.
Local, national, and international news organizations reported on our findings, which include dangerously toxic living conditions, routine sexual, physical, and verbal abuse by staff, elder neglect and abuse, discrimination against people with disabilities, and threats of retaliation against shelter residents who are brave enough to speak out about these issues.
Several state agencies contacted us expressing deep concern about the grim conditions uncovered by the investigation. And new reports poured in to our tip line.
The five people directly responsible for the systemic failures leading to the abusive conditions in county-funded shelters—the Orange County Board of Supervisors—have been conspicuously silent since the report’s release on March 14.
However, the five people directly responsible for the systemic failures leading to the abusive conditions in county-funded shelters—the Orange County Board of Supervisors—have been conspicuously silent since the report’s release on March 14. Moreover, they have rebuffed our requests to discuss the crisis and have ignored the report’s tailor-made recommendations for fixing the emergency shelter system.
But the report cannot be ignored. It is the product of over a year of investigation, providing comprehensive documentation of the abuse and neglect in the emergency shelters in excruciating detail based on approximately 70 interviews and hundreds of public records. With all of the evidence now before the Board of Supervisors, inaction is not an option.
Given the urgency of the crisis, we have set a deadline of May 1, 2019 for the county to set a meeting to discuss critical policy solutions outlined in the report including:
- Establishing and enforcing clear and uniform health and safety standards.
- Establishing an Orange County Office of Civil Rights and a Civilian Oversight Board to enforce compliance with civil rights law.
- Creating a countywide reasonable accommodation policy for residents with disabilities.
- Establishing due process systems for denials, evictions, and other sanctions.
Join us by signing our petition urging the Board of Supervisors to immediately adopt the ACLU SoCal’s recommendations and end the abuse and neglect in Orange County emergency shelters.
How the board responds to this crisis will say much about the character of Orange County.
Eve Garrow is homelessness policy analyst and advocate at the ACLU of Southern California.