Kriz: Homeless Deaths on the Streets of OC Continues

Nineteen people died “without fixed abode,” homeless, in Orange County in April.  They are: Brent SCHNEIDER (March 31), Richard THOMPSON (April 3), David GIBSON (April 5), Larry LEWIS (April 5), David LONGO (April 7), Vicki MORRISON (April 8), Catrina PADILLA (April 9), Paul BRAZER (April 10), Jason MUDRINICH (April 11), Peggy PRESTON (April 13), Michael RIGGS (April 18), David KRAUSZ (April 19), Armando MARTINEZ, II (April 20), Philip BLUM (April 22), Pilar BELTRAN-KNIGHTS (April 24), Leticia MARQUEZ (April 25), Gonzalo EVARISTO TOMAS (April 26), Leon BICKETT (April 27), Dustin NORDVALL (April 27).

Yes, Federal Judge David Carter’s called a public health emergency with regards to homelessness a few months ago.  Yes, CalOptima has since moved to create number of mobile medical teams to visit the homeless on the streets.  Still every 39 hours or so, a person experiencing homelessness died on our streets last month.

It is clear that many in public office across the County and in our Cities simply don’t consider the situation to be urgent.

Here in Fullerton, we now have some 30 people sleeping on our grounds at St. Philip Benizi.   It’s been a source of irritation to just about everybody.  Will it last? My guess is almost certainly no. We’ve been letting these people sleep on our grounds because they have no place to go.  But one is definitely getting the sense that unless the shadows change, they’ll have no place to go – FOREVER.

Why?  Even those 30 are a drop in the bucket compared to the 300-370 currently unsheltered people sleeping around Fullerton each night.

Does this have to be this way?  Of course not.  Bill Taormina recently offered to put up his own money to build the City a shelter as big as it’d need.  All he asked was that the city apply for the state money available to operate it.  Previously Anaheim took up his offer, and it works. He and Paul Leon of the Illumination Foundation put a 100 bed expandable to 200 bed shelter at Anaheim Way in two weeks. Yes, it probably should have taken three weeks because the first week’s operation was a disaster, the septic tank exploded, etc.  But after that first week of hell, the shelter ran like a bell.  And the two knocked the shelter down in three months (yes, shelters need not even be permanent), because that’s how long, three months, it took for them to build the now permanent 100-200 bed navigation center at La Mesa, also in Anaheim.  In the meantime, Bill Taormina was also involved in the construction of the Salvation Army shelter also in Anaheim.

All this is possible if one just wants to do it.  Fullerton presently does not.  So it has no options for its homeless population.   But Fullerton is by no means radically “different” from most of the other cities of Orange County.

So readers, if you wonder why you have homeless folks sleeping in your parks, or even why they die at a rate of 1 in 36 to 40 hours across the county … you know why.  We give people no options and eventually they die.  Some try to call it tough love.  No, it’s simply cruel.

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

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