We were angered and heartbroken when Mr. Kurt Andras Reinhold, an unhoused Black man, was shot and killed by Orange County Sheriff Department (OCSD) Homeless Liaison Officers while jaywalking on the afternoon of September 23 in San Clemente. His senseless death is a result of your budgetary decisions. Prioritizing law enforcement as a response to homelessness and ignoring the need for affordable housing and other imperative services inevitably leads to the over-policing of people whose only “crime” is being unhoused in one of the most expensive rental markets in the nation. Law enforcement officers should not be the first responders for homelessness. The county’s first response should be to ensure that everyone who becomes unhoused has access to permanent, affordable housing.

We, the undersigned, are united in our belief that investment in affordable and supportive housing, with wrap-around services when needed, is the only effective and humane solution to homelessness. Over the years, many of us have consistently urged you to commit discretionary funds, which you control, to housing to end and prevent homelessness. We have asked you to develop new funding mechanisms, like a bond measure, that would provide the resources needed to end homelessness and the suffering that goes along with it. Yet you continue to overinvest in law enforcement at the expense of affordable and supportive housing. The discretionary budget you voted to adopt just a week before Mr. Reinhold’s death once again prioritizes the Sheriff’s Department, the DA’s Office, and the jails. It commits nothing to public health or affordable housing to end and prevent homelessness. It is perhaps the most tone-deaf budget you have ever adopted–an evil of banality, silence, and inaction.

In the world we envision, Mr. Reinhold would have received housing and needed services as an immediate response to his needs. Instead, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Orange County continues to climb, and unhoused people are dying at a much higher rate than in previous years. This carnage must end.

In memory of Mr. Kurt Andras Reinhold and all other community members who have died while unhoused, we will continue to fight for an Orange County that is civilized and humane, treats its disabled and economically disadvantaged community members with dignity and respect, and ends homelessness for good by funding supportive, affordable and permanent housing.

You have the power to stop the deaths. We demand that you use it.

Father Dennis Kriz, on behalf of Housing is a Human Right Orange County
Rev. Kent Doss, on behalf of Tapestry, A Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Maura Mikulec, on behalf of South County Homeless Task Force

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