Twenty five people living “without fixed abode,” that is homeless, died in Orange County in November.  Their names are:

Robert GARZA who died on November 1st in Costa Mesa, Nicholas MELANSON who died on November 1st in Costa Mesa, Luis HERNANDEZ who died on November 1st in Santa Ana, Roger BROOKS who died on November 1st in Orange, Infant male TOSTADO who died on November 2nd in Santa Ana, Bruce JOHNSTONE who died on November 5th in Fullerton, Michael DERUSHIA who died on November 6th in Huntington Beach, Priscilla SALINAS who died on November 8th in Fountain Valley, Dakota HANSEN who died on November 9th in Santa Ana, James KEECH who died on Nov10th in Anaheim, Stacy MENDES who died on November 11th in Orange, Jerry PIPER who died on Novt 12th in Anaheim, Larry KICHLER who died on November 15th in Fullerton, Esmail FARZANEHKARI who died on November 16th in Anaheim, John DOE who died on November 16th in Newport Beach, John DOE who died on November 19th in Santa Ana, Paul TAYLOR who died on November 21st in Orange, Andrea BERKIS who died on November 22nd in Huntington Beach, Miguel RUACHO who died on November 24th in La Habra, Gerardo RUIZ CHAVEZ who died on November 25th in Orange, Randy CONSTANT who died on November 26th in Newport Beach, Jose RAMIREZ who died on November 26th in Huntington Beach, Michael ORTIZ who died on November 27th in Anaheim, Matthew TORRES who died on November 30th in Buena Park, and Antone KALEEL, JR. who died on November 30th in Orange.

Nineteen people living in such circumstances died across Orange County last November.  Since Governor Newsom’s March 19th “Shelter in Place” order, 247 people living without fixed abode died across the county, 139 died under the same circumstances over the same period of time last year.

As I wrote last month, there are signs of hope.  More shelters are being opened.  Yet, there are bottlenecks and IMHO problems.  The single biggest problem is that there remains a clear / desperate shortage of permanent homes / living situations to move along those who enter into the shelters.  This is not lost on anyone, and certainly not on those who are find themselves sleeping on our streets and are being asked to go into the shelters.

Further, as irritating as this must be to many readers, there remain true civil liberties questions, that almost none of us would put up with, with regards to freedom of movement for those who do choose to enter into the shelters.

Readers please look at the question honestly: Who of us would volunteer to go to a facility that one could not leave, except perhaps escorted once or twice a week, especially if one more-or-less knew that one was almost certainly to going to remain in that facility for six months with little hope of moving during that time into something better, and at the end of those six months will probably be “exited” back onto the streets again?  Yes, six months with a shower and heat, and in the better shelters access to TV / wifi, is probably better than sleeping out in the elements in a tent with a baseball bat (or perhaps “a strong man”) for protection.  But voluntary incarceration with an expulsion date, especially when one has been disappointed, again and again before, is a really tough sell and to little purpose.

There will probably be a change in Federal Administration, and the federal government is the only one that can provide the money needed to solve this problem.  Perhaps it is time to start, daily, sending pictures of our residents sleeping on our streets to those in Washington D.C. who would block assistance to them, noting of course, that this is a federal problem.  A fair number of those sleeping on our streets come originally from elsewhere, and yet, of course, no one wants to claim them now – “Don’t take this personally, but I don’t want to take care of you unless someone can prove that I’m absolutely responsible for you.”

Instead, let us all simply accept that these people, like the Okies of the 1930s are here, and not everyone who comes to California can be a Mark Zuckerberg or a Silvester Stallone though California has certainly benefited from arrivals to Hollywood and Silicon Valley.  Let everybody chip in now to take care of those who do come here and find … that they do need some help.   Given a chance, no one wants to be a burden.

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

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