Filth, Mold, Abuse: Report Condemns State of California Homeless Shelters
A new report from the ACLU calls out three shelters as former residents recount harrowing stories of life inside. Resident Jan was an was optimistic when she moved into the homeless shelter, which had recently opened. She said it seemed clean and well-organized. “It was so fun,” she said. “There was karaoke.”
But, things quickly went downhill said Jan, who asked that we only use her first name for fear of retribution over speaking out about the shelter conditions. “Within a month, everything was rotten,” she said. “There was filth and mold and abuse by the staff. Mold on the floor of the bathroom, mold by the microwave. The only time it looked nice was when somebody would come to see it, like the media or someone from the board of supervisors.”
California Is Moving Homeless People into Sheds – But Is It Right?
Bridges at Kraemer Place is one of three California shelters condemned for its bleak conditions in a new report from the ACLU. All are in Orange county, one of the wealthiest counties in California, which has been ravaged by a homelessness crisis. Last year there was an outcry after bus stops abutting Disneyland were stripped of benches that homeless people slept on. Also, local authorities were criticized for evicting hundreds of people living in a riverbed without offering them an alternative place to stay.
Response from the ACLU
The ACLU report details a dizzying list of abuses and unlivable conditions, as reported by shelter residents, volunteers and staff. The shelters were racked by infestations of rodents, roaches, bedbugs and other pests, and plagued by a culture of neglect and abuse by shelter staff, the report alleges. “The shelters … fail to conform to standards set forth by international human rights law, which establish the minimum standard of living adequate for health and well-being,” its authors write.
“To the extent that the county or its agents have subjected people experiencing homelessness using emergency shelters to foreseeable harm and failed to intercede, it is responsible for state-created danger.”
In response to the report, the county issued a statement saying officials are “committed to ensuring our emergency shelters are safe for all our clients”, and that they would take time to review the report before responding in detail.Advertisement
This is not the first time that Orange county has been criticized for its treatment of the homeless. Homeless advocates say the county and its cities are violating their responsibility to provide housing – or, at a minimum, shelter beds – for people living on the streets. Both the county and several of its cities are facing lawsuits alleging that they are mistreating homeless residents, in part by failing to provide enough shelter beds for them.
But the ACLU report demonstrates that it is not just the availability of shelter beds – but the quality of the shelters themselves – that’s important. “Some of these violations [are] so egregious that they’re just hard to digest,” said Eve Garrow, a policy analyst at the ACLU of Southern California and co-author of the report.
“Shelters are supposed to be humane places that actually help people and help them recover from life on the streets,” she said. “It was rather shocking to find out that not only were these shelters not living up to their promise, they’re actually harming the people they’re supposed to be serving.”
Summary based on article written by Francesca Berardi for the Guardian.