Kriz: Homeless Deaths in OC Reach 113 For 2019

Fr. Dennis Kriz

Fifteen more people died “without fixed abode” in Orange County in July.  They are: Pamela GARCIA (who died in Anaheim on July 3), William MONTAGUE who died in Anaheim on July 6), Julian BERNAL (who died in Anaheim on July 7), David TUY (who died in Santa Ana on July 8), Jessica FLEMING (who died in Fountain Valley on July 13), Taylor THOMPSON (who died in Anaheim on July 13), Douglas ROBBIO (who died in Newport Beach on July 14), Jose DOMINGUEZ (who died in Fullerton on July 18), Carlos FLORES (who died in Orange on July 18), Kraig KISSINGER (who died in Anaheim on July 24), Sean VALADEZ (who died in Santa Ana on July 27), John CRASS (who died in Fullerton on July 28), Randall DODD (who died in Orange on July 28), Infant Female ANDERSON who died in Orange on July 30), Brad INFANGER (who died in Newport Coast on July 30).  May they rest in peace and perpetual light shine upon them.

The fifteen who died last month brings the total number of those who died on our streets without fixed abode to 113 since January 1, 2019 with a projected total of about 193 by year’s end.  This would be a 21% reduction of the number of people who would have died without fixed abode from last year’s 244.  This should be something to cheer.  Still other Counties, notably San Diego County with both similar demographics has been able to keep the number of people dying without fixed abode at 111 or less than half (45%) of our total (Times of San Diego, March 23, 2019).

Then, while both the County and its constituent cities continue to plug away at building permanent housing for its 7000-10, 000 homeless (the first number from the 2019 PIT count, the second number coming from CalOptima based on the number of applicants for services who put either no address or the address of a homeless shelter for their address on their forms in the past year), progress has been slow.

At Monday’s meeting of OC’s Commission on Homelessness, it was presented that 800 new units with wrap-around services would be built by the end of the FY 2019-2020.  If half of those who are homeless would ultimately need permanent supportive housing, that would be about 20 percent of the total.  So we could be 5 years away from solving our problem.  This again could be seen as something to be happy about, as in an earlier article this year, I noted that we were 8.6 years from solving our problem and by then 45% of those to be helped would have died.

A question could be asked, why are we tolerating these 5-10 year timelines at all?

If there were an earthquake here tomorrow that left 7000-10000 homeless and 3000-4000 seriously injured (corresponding here to the people who would have drug addiction and serious mental health issues), we would assume that FEMA would could come in and within a week all 7000-10000 homeless would have a roof if perhaps a FEMA-provided tent flap over their heads (but in an organized and full-service camp) and the 3000-4000 injured would be taken care of.

Within a year, all 7000-10000 would be housed.

An excuse given is that “the homeless don’t want to be housed” but all our 24 hour shelters are full.  It would seem to me that we should honestly look at the question, why must we go so slow?  It is clear as day from the Judge Carter hearings that at the State is more than willing to find the money needed to do what would be needed to house the people sleeping on our streets. Perhaps building from scratch would be too slow.

Perhaps other creative ways to incentivize owners of existing housing to convert their units into those suitable for permanent supportive housing (and about ½ of the those finding themselves homeless, wouldn’t need anything special at all, simply a section 8 voucher that would be accepted by someone, to put a roof over their head).

This is a crisis that is eminently solvable and solvable in a timely fashion.  We have more than enough talent here to do it.  Please let us try and do so quickly.  No one should have to wait, grow sick and eventually die on the streets waiting for years for help.

 

 

 

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