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Twenty four people died “without fixed abode” in OC in December. Their names are:

Jeffrey VILLARREAL who died on December 5th in Anaheim, George GLENDENNING who died on December 6th in Anaheim, Juan SANCHEZ who died on December 7th in Santa Ana, Jason MOTIS who died on December 8th in Aliso Viejo, Charles MOLFESE who died on December 9th in Fullerton, Robert JOHNSON JR. who died on December 11th in Fullerton, Daniel SMITH who died on December 12th in Newport Beach, Adam GIAVELLI who died on December 13th in Buena Park, Ruswuel CASTELLANOS who died on December 13th in Santa Ana, Felisha HERNANDEZ who died on December 17th in Anaheim, Daniel REDDY who died on December 18th in Newport Beach, Karen MITCHELL who died on December 20th in Anaheim, Michael MUENSTERMAN who died on December 21st in Santa Ana, Jaima FAWCETT who died on December 23rd in Tustin, Robyn STEWART who died on December 24th in Santa Ana, Janie DEVRIES who died on December 24th in Westminster, Alexandria FODY who died on December 25th in Anaheim, Rou CHUNG who died on December 25th in Westminster, Alan DOWNEY who died on December 25th in Westminster, Ramon LOPEZ JR who died on December 26th in Santa Ana, J Refugio MUNIZ who died on December 26th in Anaheim, Robert GEDDES who died on December 26th in Mission Viejo, Veronica BLAKE who died on December 29th in Garden Grove, and Michael MATTHEWS who died on December 30th in Garden Grove.

For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 Crisis, the same number died this year as last. The various initiatives throughout the County – from the opening of the Navigation Center in Fullerton to the opening of the blimp-sized tent in Huntington Beach to continued attempts to house at least some of the County’s persons encountering themselves homeless in hotel rooms – may have paid off.

Then again, we might have simply gotten lucky: December tends to be one of the worst months of the year in terms of homeless deaths in Southern California, Orange County included, because of rain and we’ve been exceptionally dry this year. This year, we had only one day of rain in December, the 24th and eight of the people who died “without fixed abode” in OC last month died between Dec 24th and Dec 26th. That is a full third of those who died over the course of the whole month. So it’s not necessarily comforting to know that one of the main reasons why we may have finally fallen back to pre-Covid levels in deaths among OC’s homeless may have been that we were simply lucky in this regard with the weather.

That said, there has been movement in the County, from the completion of the projects listed above to also simply an acknowledgment on the County level, by OC BOS proclamation, of the heightened death toll last year among the County’s persons counted as homeless, without fixed abode. Thank you Supervisors Chaffee and Do for noting this for Homeless Memorial Day, Dec. 21st this year.

Indeed, with the election of Andrew Do as the Chair of the OC Board of Supervisors and Doug Chaffee as the Assistant Chair can be seen as a sign of hope in this matter, that finally significant progress can be made in the coming year in solving the County’s homelessness problem which affects us all.

For every day of inaction, every time we successfully find yet another excuse to continue to do nothing or next to nothing, all but nothing, means another day of keeping thousands of people sleeping on our streets, often in our parks, reducing the quality of life of us all and making it increasingly hard to look ourselves in the mirror for what we’ve become.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to come to hate ourselves for our cruelty. We can learn again to extend our hand to those who need us.

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

Opinions expressed in editorials 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 contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

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