Victorville & Sheriff Tell Homeless Living In Riverbed To Hit The Road

(December 18)  VICTORVILLE— Some six dozen denizens of the Mojave riverbed homeless encampment in Victorville are about to be presented with an unwanted Christmas present, as city officials and sheriff’s department officers are in the final stages of preparing an eviction notice specifically targeting them.
City officials say the move is justified by the consideration that at least some of the property where the homeless are residing is private property, that there has been a large volume of calls to the sheriff’s department to quell disturbances there and that the encampment is resulting in pollution of the environs because of insufficient sanitation facilities there.
Under the terms of the eviction notices being prepared for processing through the San Bernardino Superior Court, those served will be presented with a March deadline by which they must entirely vacate a proscribed area between the Iron Bridge near Highway 18 at the Mojave Narrows and Stoddard Wells Road. Those who do not comply with the order or who leave and return will be subject to arrest or citation on trespassing charges.
Officials have yet to spell out how they intend to document the identities of those served, as some lack identification or traditional addresses. Nor have officials specified what procedure will be utilized against any individuals or groups who take up residence near the river after the initial set of notices are served.
People have been subsisting at that stretch along the often-dry riverbed for two decades, including at least a handful who are still in residence there.
There have been desultory and occasional enforcement actions over the years aimed at persuading the population there to move on, which has had only limited success.
The stepped-up plan of action comes less than a month after Gloria Garcia, who has been on the city council since 2012, was elevated to the position of mayor. Garcia was the most visible representative of the city in the announcement of the intent to proceed with the eviction. The other entity associated with the move is the sheriff’s department, with which the city of Victorville contracts for the provision of law enforcement services. The department is employing one of its more obscure divisions, its so-called “homeless outreach and proactive enforcement team” to carry out the nitty-gritty of the assignment. The department will enable the team by giving it orders to clear the riverbed. In doing so, the team is to be augmented with volunteer inmate crews from the county’s detention facilities, who will be brought in to “stand by” as the sheriff’s deputies make their final pass through of the property in question in March. Those who do not leave at that point will be arrested and incarcerated themselves. The jail trustees on hand will then be called into action, and will discard all of the trash and debris at the site along with any of the remaining belongings of the evictees. It is believed that having the inmates, bona fide members of the community’s criminal class, in place to look down on the riverbed’s inhabitants as their living quarters are decimated, will psychologically break them of any determination they possess to return.
A city work crew will then erect k-rails at the open points of egress to the riverbed, which will discourage any further encampments.
City and police officials have armed themselves with statistics to ward off any “bleeding heart” advocacy on behalf of the homeless to be displaced.
In essence, those talking points boil down to an assertion that the soon-to-be evicted merit the treatment they are to receive. Garcia and other members of the council, as well as senior staff at City Hall and members of the sheriff’s department who will be involved in the eviction have been prompted with statistics to show that the sheriff’s department has received over 4,400 calls for service in or near the riverbed in the 34 months commencing in January 2012 and that in that span there were over 80 assaults, four rapes and a murder there.
Garcia and the sheriff’s department made clear that a new day is dawning in Victorville in which tolerance of the homeless is drawing to a close. “It is time for them to leave,” Garcia said. The new approach will begin with relatively benign outreach, officials said, which will consist of telling those living on the riverbed, through postings and word of mouth, that they must get out of town. The approach will grow firmer and firmer until, Garcia said, “the problem is eradicated.”
Cooperation of those targeted for removal is up to those individuals targeted, officials said. Those who choose to cooperate will avoid any direct enforcement action. Those who don’t will face criminal charges.
Some made the observation that Victorville had awaited to institute the draconian policy until Garcia, a Hispanic, was serving as mayor and Eric Negrete, another Hispanic who was elected in November, was serving on the council, thus blunting any accusations that might follow which charge the city with taking the action against a disadvantaged social class.
Others expressed the view that the action is long overdue and credited Garcia, the council and the sheriff’s department with a “great job” in resolving to take the action now under preparation.
Still others said the evictions would prove inadequate and would merely displace the homeless further down the road without creating any lasting solution to the homeless problem or the underlying plight of the human condition of social and economic disparity.

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