Twenty-one people died “without fixed abode,” homeless, last month in Orange County. Their names are:

Ronald WOOLLEY who died on June 1st in Costa Mesa, Robert FIGUEROA who died on June 6th in Santa Ana, Jeffrey ANTES who died on June 8th in Fullerton, Jose SALGADO who died on June 9th in Huntington Beach, Abel Roberto BERNAL TELLEZ who died on June 9th in Santa Ana, Lorraine HERRERA who died on June 9th in Santa Ana, Timothy SCHOCH who died on June 9th in San Clemente, John REAM who died on June 10th in San Clemente, Roxanne RIOS who died on June 12th in Anaheim, Jeffery BYRD who died on June 13th in Fullerton, Abul KALAM who died on June 16th in Anaheim, Geraldine OREMUS who died on June 17th in Westminster, Bruce STOVALL who died on June 17th in Laguna Hills, Victoria HODGES who died on June 21st in Santa Ana, Francisco TORIVIO PENALOZA who died on June 23rd in Santa Ana, Robert SIMPSON who died on June 25th in Anaheim, Angel JIMENEZ who died on June 26th in Newport Beach, David STAME who died on June 26th in Orange, Daniel LOPEZ who died on June 29th in Santa Ana, Jeremy MATHIS who died on June 30th in Irvine, and Kevin GOWDY who died on June 30th in Placentia.

Last year, June 2019, there were 13 people who died “without fixed abode” in OC. So while officially only two people experiencing homelessness have died of COVID-19 in Orange County, since the Governor’s initial “shelter in place” order of March 19, 2020, those living “without fixed abode” have been dying nearly twice the rate as last year — 101 since the initial order compared to 53 over the same period last year.

In recent months, there has been movement, if in comparison to the velocity of just about everything else, glacial, on the homeless front.

It took two months for the County to implement the state funded Operation Room Key. So some 500 people finding themselves homeless, mostly those who were already sleeping in shelters, which due to COVID-19 had to make at least modest provision to social distancing (expanding distance between shelter beds from 18 inches to 3 feet, half that of the 6’ standard that the rest of us get to live by, were able to take advantage of this program.

Additionally, two Navigation Centers – one each in Placentia and Buena Park – have opened, each with a capacity of 150 beds. A third, another 150-bed facility that our Parish of St. Philip Benizi campaigned for last year, will open in Fullerton (about four blocks from our parish) is scheduled to open by the end of the month.

These three shelters increase the County’s capacity, mostly in the North Spa Region, by a total of 450 beds. By the 2019 PIT Count, there were 2,765 individuals who were homeless in the County’s North Spa region (out of 6860 across the whole of the County). Of those 1596 were unsheltered in the North Spa (out of 3961 county-wide). The addition of the three shelters adds 450 beds to the North Spa’s capacity. So even by 2019 numbers we’ll have 1146 people remaining unsheltered in the North Spa and 3511 across the County. But 450 shelter beds is at least something, both the Maginot Line and Buchenwald were somethings as well, but it is at least something.

COVID-19 or not, South County has of course been almost completely AWOL regarding these developments, preferring to waste oxygen on impassioned defenses of the rights to golf and to surf, to emphatically NOT wear masks and most recently working extremely hard to make their own kids into disease vectors to kill their parents, neighbors and grandparents.   South County has its own homeless problem and has chosen over these past months to do absolutely nothing about it. Read out the names folks, and count how of these people died in your midst. Can you do better? Of course you can.

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

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