Thirty-two people “without fixed abode,” homeless, died in Orange County in September 2020. Their names are:

Paul GILL who died on Sept 1st in Orange, Alexa COOK who died on Sept 1st in Anaheim, Lee MESZAROS who died on Sept 3rd in Irvine, Roberto CUEVAS who died on Sept 5th in Santa Ana, Steven ANDERSON who died on Sept 6th in Anaheim, Infant male GOIN who died on Sept 6th in Garden Grove, Vincent CISNEROS who died on Sept 6th in Santa Ana, William ROUTLEDGE who died on Sept 7th in Garden Grove, Brenda FOSTER who died on Sept 7th in Foothill Ranch, Miguel VARELA who died on Sept 10th in Orange, Andrew HOLMAN who died on Sept 11th in Costa Mesa, Manuel BAUTISTA who died on Sept 11th in Fountain Valley, Martha VALLE who died on Sept 13th in Anaheim, Ryan GABLE who died on Sept 16th in Fullerton, Donald TAPPARO who died on Sept 16th in Santa Ana, Thien NGUYEN who died on Sept 18th in Stanton, Elstephon NOAH who died on Sept 20th in Seal Beach, Michael GOMEZ who died on Sept 20th in Santa Ana, Jose ANAYA who died on Sept 20th in Orange, Melinda HUYETTE who died on Sept 21st in Santa Ana, James ROMEY who died on Sept 21st in Fountain Valley, Jason DESILVA who died on Sept 23rd in Anaheim, Kurt REINHOLD who died on Sept 23rd in San Clemente, Kevin PORTER who died on Sept 23rd in Costa Mesa, Charles SLATER who died on Sept 25th in Orange, Van NGUYEN who died on Sept 26th in Garden Grove, Trisha WOODWARD who died on Sept 27th in Costa Mesa, Camilo ENRIQUEZ who died on Sept 27th in Santa Ana, Michael EISENHAUER who died on Sept 27th in Orange, Chad KIZZAR who died on Sept 28th in Orange, Tyler LOPEZ who died on Sept 29th in Laguna Beach, and Carlos PEREZ who died on Sept 30th in Anaheim.

Last September, only ten died.   Since March 19th, when Governor Newsom issued California’s “Shelter in Place” order, 190 people “without fixed abode” died in OC. Only 96 died over the same period last year. So over the course of the COVID-19 crisis in California, the mortality rate of OC’s homeless population has consistently remained at nearly twice that of the previous year.

Yet, beginning on Friday, Oct 16, 2020, the County has begun wrapping-up its participation in the State-Sponsored Operation Roomkey, which while from the beginning was hopelessly under-dimensioned did provide hotel rooms for 10% of the county’s homeless population.   In the next month, most of the 500 or so who were able to take advantage of the program will be exited back to shelters or back onto the street.

Further, it must be mentioned that of the one the County’s homeless deceased, Kurt Reinhold, was shot dead in San Clemente, by the OC Sheriff Dept’s “Homeless Liaison Unit” no less, while he was apparently j-walking.

So it has been a rather terrible month for the County and its homeless population, yet not a month of complete darkness.   On October 13th, Mike Clements of Fullerton’s TriParish / Diocesan Homeless Collaborative along with People for Housing OC organized an excellent program on the topic “After the Shelter” leaning on experiences of the Faith Communities in Brea and Placentia in offering transitional housing as a step from the shelters to permanent housing.

The discussion offered a small point of light – and I continue to maintain that the County’s and even the State’s fundamental problem is that every approach that has been proposed or implemented has never come even close to responding to the scale of the homelessness problem here – but even a few photons of light are certainly better than none, and in as much as light exists at all, it does dispel darkness. But let us be clear: We need more Light.

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

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