Twenty people died “without fixed abode” in Orange County, last month, in February.

They are: Andrew HENDERSON (Feb. 3), Scott SPENCER (Feb. 6), Jay FOUTS (Feb. 6), Josephine TORRES (Feb. 9), Ronald MARTIN (Feb. 9), Lisa PECK (Feb. 11), Petru MUNTEAN (Feb. 13), Michael SPEAK (Feb. 15), Raymond OLIVER (Feb. 15), Donald AMES II (Feb. 17), Stacey RAAB (Feb. 18), Pedro MEDERO (Feb. 20), David(FERRY (Feb. 21), Jose VELAZQUEZ (Feb. 22), Michael TURNER (Feb. 22), Linda GARNER (Feb. 22), Lucas ALPIZAR (Feb. 23), Michael SEBREROS SANCHEZ (Feb. 23), Duane LOPEZ (Feb. 24) and Roberto OMANA (Feb. 25).

During this month, there may have been some significant movement in addressing the homeless situation here in Orange County. Citing in good part columns printed here naming the homeless deceased, Federal Judge O. David Carter declared a Public Health Emergency in Orange County.  The health care agency CalOptima unanimously voted to start putting medical teams in vans onto the streets and by this week it was heartening to hear complaints from members of the OC BOS that this was not being done fast enough.  That said, five South County cities were sued in Federal Court for not providing enough shelter beds for the persons experiencing homelessness in their midst.

How’s it going in North County, Fullerton, where I’m stationed?  Well not much progress is visible.  We continue to have our 12-20 people sleeping on our grounds, the neighbors being to a large extent understandably frustrated.  There is hope that in a couple of months two shelters, in the neighboring cities of Buena Park and Placentia, but in the same North SPA area as Fullerton are going to come online (Fullerton already is financially responsible in part for the operation of Bridges at Kraemer Place).

During this time, we organized a petition effort, the petition along with 191 signatories from among both human rights activists and Orange County’s interfaith community, graciously printed here on Voice of OC, asking the County as well as its cities to ensure that the shelters that do come online meet minimal standards to make the effort worthwhile: (1) reasonable provision be made (up to a “shopping cart” or “tub” limit) for people’s stuff, (2) provision be made for people arriving at the shelters sick or infested with pests, (3) respect for the people sleeping at the shelters be maintained so that no one would be normally expelled into the darkness before dawn each morning before just about everything else anywhere opens, (4) respect for even homeless people’s rights to lodge complaints and to be able document them (as everybody else in our time does) with photos, audio and video, and that (5) “day centers” be created so that those who are experiencing homelessness would have some safe places to be, yes, get counseling, yes even job counseling, without feeling that they’re always in the way. Everyone who is, by the mere fact of being, has a right to be at peace … somewhere.

So I remain optimistic that we are moving forward, that the twenty souls remembered here will not have died in vain.  Yet, even as one has cause for optimism, one also hears words that are worrisome.  There are officials about the county now latching onto catch phrases like – “we only have to provide beds for 60% of our homeless populations.”  What of the other 40%?  One fears that a lot of those twenty who died last month on the streets of OC “without fixed abode” would have been from among the cast away 40%.  We are a country that prides itself in not leaving anybody behind.  We simply have to aim to save them all not just 60% of them.

Fr. Dennis Kriz, OSM, Pastor St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church, Fullerton.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

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