Unitarian Minister Rev Rayna Hamre leading Prayer Service for the Homeless Deceased

Eighteen people died “without fixed abode,” homeless, in Orange County in March.  They are: Octavio TEOSILO (March 1), Terri DELAO (March 2), Jay LUCAS (March 3), Sailor KELLY (March 3), Michelle CAMARILLO (March 4), Shelley DUPRAY (March 6), Leonard LAUVAO (March 8), Fernando GONZALES (March 9), Dorothy ROGERS (March 9), William WELLS (March 10), Jose RANGEL (March 13), Thomas BRYANT (March 17), Gary SEEDS (March 20), David STACK (March 21), Nichole EASTIN (March 23), Christine SAVAGE (March 25), Abel GUEVARA (March 29), Raymond MACDONALD (March 30).

Each of them shared this world with us and now they have gone.

However as sad as it is to recall these eighteen who died the previous month, one, David Gibson, who died last Friday, April 5th, who we quickly recalled at our Second Tuesday of the Month Prayer Service for those who died on the streets the previous month, and who will formally appear in next month’s list, is perhaps the one who ought to give all of us pause and especially the County’s Public Health Authorities

For this man, an 11-year veteran, and one who had been sleeping at the Fullerton Armory for years, died of heat stroke on that day.  We focus on cold weather and attendant hypothermia, but the sun and heat can kill as well…

There’s been both movement and not so much movement in the month previous.  Cal Optima has been mobilized in this month to begin a three year program to bring basic medical services through teams in medical vans.  A scathing but honest ACLU report came out challenging the County to ensure that the shelters being built now are worthy of the name.  Federal Judge David Carter presided over a status hearing on April 2ndand praised and chastised the county and various cities for their action or lack of it.

Yet I continue to wonder if we yet really appreciate the scale of the problem before us. According to published reporting (Jill Repogle, Laist, March 6), last year, the County was able to place 300 previously homeless people into permanent housing.  Yet we memorialized here 244 who died “without fixed abode” during the previous year as well.  So last year people were dying homeless at almost the same rate as were being housed. Futher there continue to be about 4700 people county-wide who remain homeless.  At the current rate it will take 8.6 years for the current queue to be cleared and 45% of those will have died.  Hence, why I told the Carter hearing that proposals made to him need to effectively “add a zero” to them (scale themselves up by an order of magnitude) in order to be honest about responding to the scale of the problem.

Is that too much to ask? Would that just depress us?  We have plenty of bright, well educated people in this County and we have world class universities in Southern California (including UCI) with world class urban planning departments.  We also have some very wealthy and very generous people in this County.  I’m positive that we can find the mix to find the solutions needed to solve this problem. Perhaps it will take a Bruce Wayne or two (without the batman suits) or a Bill Gates or two to solve this problem. The thing is, we have them, please let us use them.

Finally, a note on the 60% solution that we still seem to aim for.  Let us continue to remember that the 40% cast away will not disappear. And after two years of talking to the now 20 or so people sleeping on our church grounds each night, if the shelters are built and operated right, taking into account the fundamental needs of the people they are to serve, there’ll be no need to force people to go to the shelters.  They’ll be happy to get out of the cold and rain in the winter and away from the hot beating sun into a nice air conditioned space in the summer – just like the rest of us.

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

Recent op-eds by Fr. Dennis:

March 2019  Kriz: Twenty More Homeless Died in OC in February

February 2019  Kriz: Fourteen More Homeless Died in OC Last Month

January 2019 Kriz: Thirteen More Homeless Died in OC Last Month

December 2018 Kriz: 244 Homeless People Died This Year in Orange County Waiting on Us

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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