Kriz: Thirty-Two People Died “Without Fixed Abode” in OC in October, Last Year There Were 24

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

Jennifer HABIB who died on October 1st in Westminster, Matthew MCKINNEY who died on October 1st in Irvine, William BEWLEY III who died on October 1st in Garden Grove, Donald WELCH who died on October 2nd in Santa Ana, Merry WATANASRIMONGKOL who died on October 3rd in Newport Beach, Joyce MCADOO who died on October 4th in Fountain Valley, Steven BORBOA who died on October 6th in Huntington Beach, Ricky DELGADO who died on October 6th in Fullerton, Heather RHEUBY who died on October 7th in Fountain Valley, Jose DE LOS SANTOS who died on October 7th in Garden Grove, Steven WIATT who died on October 8th in Fountain Valley, Faith REYNOLDS who died on October 8th in Fountain Valley, James VASQUEZ who died on October 9th in Anaheim, Donna VALADEZ who died on October 10th in Santa Ana, Dionicio RAMIREZ-ORTEGA who died on October 14th in Huntington Beach, Conrad RIEGER who died on October 14th in Buena Park, Jonathan RAWLINGS who died on October 15th in Buena Park, David MONGE who died on October 16th in Huntington Beach, Anthony GONZALES who died on October 17th in Orange, Paula FORD who died on October 20th in Anaheim, Kristofer MILLER who died on October 21st in Anaheim, John NGUYEN who died on October 22nd in Buena Park, Daniel DELGADO who died on October 22nd in Santa Ana, Ronald WHITECOTTON who died on October 22nd in Fountain Valley, Derek DOUGHERTY who died on October 26th in Newport Beach, William CASTILLO who died on October 26th in Costa Mesa, Daniel MAYHEW JR. who died on October 27th in Santa Ana, Ignacio MALDONADO who died on October 28th in Santa Ana, Christopher JONES who died on October 29th in Anaheim, Damond MILLER who died on October 29th in Anaheim, Leonard ROMERO JR. who died on October 30th in Placentia, and Carissa ORTIZ who died on October 31st in Santa Ana.

Last year there 24 who died in similar circumstances.  Since the issuance of Governor Newsom’s March 19th “Shelter in Place” order, 222 people died “without fixed abode” in OC.  Only 120 died during the same period last year.  Hence, since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in California, the mortality rate among those “without fixed abode” in OC has remained roughly double (180%) that of their mortality rate last year.

Yet there are also developments that can give one some hope: As a result of the opening of three new 24-7 shelters / navigation centers in Northern Orange County – one each in Placentia, Buena Park and Fullerton — Judge David J. Carter has allowed the city of Fullerton to, with a good deal of delicacy, seek to encourage its city’s persons experiencing homelessness to take advantage of these new centers.

It has not been an easy sell: (1) after many years of having nothing realistic to offer the homeless population except “being put on a list” it’s not altogether easy to convince them there’s actually something available now worthy to get their hopes up. Other significant challenges include: (2) convincing people during a pandemic to accept congregate shelter / living, (3) asking them to accept restrictions on freedom of movement as a price of entering into one of the new, otherwise quite comfortable 24-7 shelters / centers, restrictions that would challenge pretty much all of us., and (4) it remains not necessarily obvious that there’s any place for these people to move to “beyond the shelter” after they enter.

One is reminded of Rusty Kennedy’s appeal about this time last year to the Faith Communities / Non-Profit members of the Fullerton Collaborative when he presented the results of last year’s city wide Ad-Hoc Committee on Homelessness that he headed.  There he asked us to “find ways” to help those who come for help to remain in their homes.  “It is so much easier to help people stay in their homes, than to seek to help them after find themselves on the street.”

Yes, homelessness remains an enormous challenge here in Southern California.  Yet there do appear to be at least some rays of hope.

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

Opinions expressed in community opinion pieces 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 email [email protected]