Final Tally: 404 Tons of Debris, Nearly 14,000 Needles, and More Than 5,000 Pounds of Waste Cleared From O.C. Homeless Camp

A shocking new report from Orange County’s Public Works Department shows just how bad things had gotten along the Santa Ana River trail before officials there received a court’s permission to clear out a bevy of homeless encampments.

According to the final figures, Public Works collected:

• 404 tons of debris (equivalent to about 67 killer whales)

• 13,950 needles (an approximate number)

• 5,279 pounds of feces, pesticides, propane, and other hazardous waste 

The cleanup project elicited condemnation and legal challenges from civil rights and homeless advocates, who claimed the county had no business dismantling peoples’ homes without providing what they deemed adequate shelter. County leaders argued that the situation along the trail represented an urgent public health and safety issue. Given the figures, that last argument is difficult to dispute.

According to the Orange County Register, most of the homeless individuals who once lived along the trail are now staying in nearby motels while experts assess their needs. The county (and region) must continue working on a long-term solution to homelessness or risk a return to the status quo.