Photo courtesy of Russell Bynum. Above: homeless encampments along the Santa Ana River Trail in Orange County.
Orange County resident Russell Bynum is pissed off.
Not sad. Not frustrated. Not concerned.
You see, Russell and his son Steven are attached by the bicycle crank and the Santa Ana River Trail (SART), a 12-foot wide, 28.5-mile long course through everything from the wetlands of Huntington Beach to the more urban aura of Santa Ana.
Russell’s own spawn developed his biking skill on this very trail. Steven’s first 20-mile ride, “going from Yorba Linda to the beach on his little 20-inch mountain bike when he was six,” Russell remembers like any proud father, happened on SART. It was also a part of lil’ Steve’s first 30-mile ride, 50-mile ride, 100-kilometer ride, and 100-mile ride.
It is engrained in the Bynum’s biking DNA and history—and how dare the homeless tarnish that history.
So terrified of this influx of the dirty folks of the world into the clean, faux-Italian stretches of OC spaces, Russell goes on an epic rant about his precious SART being tainted and turned into a “post-apocalyptic doomsday movie.” And after reading that rant, you’ll find out that his precious memories aren’t being altered by a genuine care for figuring out what prompted this explosion of homelessness.
Russell already has it figured out: “There are a number of reasons for the explosion in the homeless population in general and here on SART in particular, but among the most infuriating: LA has apparently been loading their homeless into busses and dumping them here on SART. Because nothing says ‘Liberal Compassion’ like dumping the most miserable and vulnerable victims of your policies on someone else.”
And y’know what, depsite Orange County being the culprit of dumping people on Skid Row—not vice versa… Despite the ACLU actually suing Orange County because it was driving said homelessness off of SART… Despite this having nothing to do with the “liberal policies” that Russell continues to go on in his rant about…
Russell, I am so flippin’ happy you and your son are witnessing this.
Why am I happy to hear about homeless becoming visible in Orange County? It’s because Russell and Steven and the entirety of Orange County need a reckoning with the reality that they’ve been directly involved in building.
The reality is that Orange County (and LA County and the State) isn’t building housing at a quick enough pace let alone affordable housing. Add this onto low-paying jobs, a growing college-educated population that is experiencing homelessness, a lack of investment in mental health facilities and services, and a fear of density in Orange County, and you have the perfect recipe for a disaster—a disaster that has nothing to do with liberal or conservative policies.
When you don’t build enough of a certain resource (e.g. housing) for the amount of people that need it, you will have a hike in the cost of that resource and less people receiving it (i.e. homelessness).
You see, homelessness doesn’t fit the mansions-on-the-hills-driven narrative of Orange County, one which frowns upon anything that might show history or age, be it a building or Soccer Mom’s chest, puts chain restaurants and luxury brands on pedestals, prizes cars before humans, and stirs xenophobia at even the slightest hint of criticism. Homelessness represents the precise opposite of everything those hard-workin’, free trade Capitalists have built on their precious stretch of coast. Confinement and filth don’t mix with wide streets and narrow-minds.
Even in this video, where OC bicycling group Puff Rydaz had to eventually apologize for their commentary, show the other way in which Orange County handles homelessness: pure mockery.
Riding through SART’s tent city in lycra and high-end road bikes, they begin by acting as if they were on a tour: “Buildin’ it up!”, “No kid’s going to that park—oh wait, there’s a kid in that tent so maybe they will!”, “Generators—they’re one of the ballers!”, “Two-story tent: escalators!”, “Nice view of the riverbed: they’re the high-rise!”, and “It’s like rent-free apartments out here!”
Har-har. Aren’t they so witty, y’all?
No, it’s not like rent-free apartments. Apartments have roofs, plumbing, water, and a general sense of security. No, they’re not ballers. No, homeless children aren’t going to play in the nearby park with the same abandon that other children do.
So y’know what, Russell? I hope you continue to see them. Word has it that the homeless have even camped up outside Santa Ana City Hall, at the beaches of the ever-removed South OC area, within the corporate monotony of Irvine, around the precious resort sidewalks of Disneyland…
Good. Abso-fricken-lutely awesome. And you want to know why?
I’m gonna leave it in the words that aren’t from an outsider like myself but in the words of Orange County writer Gustavo Arellano: “I welcome the homeless to set up in places where they’ve never been before—at the gates of Coto de Caza, next to the faux Roman arches of Newport Coast, on the trails of our canyons. Make our lives uncomfortable with your mere presence. Force us to grow up. Shame us into action.”
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