Thirty two people died “without fixed abode” (homeless) in OC in April 2021.  Their names are:

Jon DETWEILER who died on April 2nd in Huntington Beach, James JOHNSON who died on April 2nd in Anaheim, Timothy STRODE who died on April 8th in San Clemente, Martin SMITH who died on April 9th in Garden Grove, Ricky WHILDIN who died on April 9th in Anaheim, James GOULD who died on April 12th in Fountain Valley, James WOODWARD who died on April 15th in Lake Forest, Daniel WARNER who died on April 15th in Santa Ana, Brenda STEWART who died on April 16th in Huntington Beach, Michael CASERTA who died on April 16th in Garden Grove, Reyna CRISTOBAL who died on April 16th in Santa Ana, Joseph LEONARD who died on April 19th in Huntington Beach, Gerardo CERVANTES who died on April 19th in Santa Ana, Melissa DUANE who died on April 20th in Stanton, Ted JOHNSON who died on April 20th in Anaheim, Armon FANNYAN who died on April 21st in Santa Ana, Benjamin DANG who died on April 21st in Fountain Valley, Rodrigo GARIBAY who died on April 22nd in Stanton, John POHLMAN who died on April 22nd in Santa Ana, Ron BLANSET who died on April 22nd in Costa Mesa, Laura ASPER who died on April 24th in Costa Mesa, Victor RICHMOND who died on April 24th in Laguna Beach, Humberto GUILLEN who died on April 24th in Santa Ana, Gem HARRISON who died on April 25th in Anaheim, Alberto HERRERA who died on April 26th in Santa Ana, Michael KIDDER who died on April 27th in La Palma, Jacqueline REAM who died on April 27th in Fountain Valley, James BAILEY who died on April 27th in Newport Beach, Erwin LAUSENHAMMER who died on April 27th in Huntington Beach, Xavier PALM who died on April 28th in Anaheim, Juan MONTEJANO who died on April 28th in Santa Ana, and Leopoldo FLORES who died on April 29th in Santa Ana.

In 2019, the last year before Covid-19, only 19 died.

The past month was characterized by much motion on the homeless front, though perhaps characteristic of the County, not necessarily of the most useful kind:  Santa Ana, having closed its two existing shelters while waiting for a new shelter to come online, nonetheless feeling pressure to “enforce,” tried to move a substantial number of its homeless population to Fullerton’s recently opened Navigation Center.  After several meetings on the matter, only those who’d qualify for the FNC’s 60 recuperative care were to be allowed to stay there.  Subsequent reporting (VOC 5/5/2021) casts some continued doubt on the actual situation.

Valencia Drive – May 3, 2021

Similarly, Fullerton’s City Council voted to begin enforcement of new parking regulations on Valencia Drive in the South Eastern portion of the city, which effectively cleared the street of the people who had been dwelling in some 30 RVs plus other vehicles / vans.  

Here it must be said that through the dedicated efforts of both city / county staff and volunteers from Fullerton’s Interfaith community as many as half of those sent away from Valencia Dr were able to be housed in both the Fullerton Navigation Center as well as rooms made available through Operation Homekey.  

Yet, it must also be said that these heroics were largely driven by the city / county officials’ inability / unwillingness, as yet, to give the RV dwellers the one thing that these people actually wanted: “Father, why don’t they just give us a place to park?” was the literally first thing out of the mouth of one of the RV dwellers.  She was then temporarily parked on a street near to Valencia after it had been cleared, while in continued conversation outreach workers sincerely trying to help her who were trying to talk her down from the 7-10 cats that she was keeping with her in her RV so that she could actually take one of the options that they could offer her.  

Others, who’ve ended up choosing to live in their vehicles following either the death of a spouse or following divorce, didn’t necessarily see their living in the RV as a forever living arrangement but would have preferred to do so both “out of the way” and legally.  One such person, simply pulled up stakes and decided to take his chances in another part of the county.  

Would a “public option” RV park be the solution?  Well it probably could relieve a lot of the stress on the part of both the outreach workers and the people intended to be served.  

Would such a place just become a haven for vice/drugs?   I don’t believe so.  Even if particular places (tents or RVs) become suspected of having become havens for crime, then warrants can be issued.  And even if “the bad guys (or gals)” “beat the rap” once or twice, it becomes exhausting to most to keep trying to outsmart the police.  As such, I simply don’t believe that effective policing would require trampling the fundamental constitutional rights that all of us are supposed to have.  We just have to be patient and follow the rules that protect us all.   

But fundamentally, we need to find some way to give people a place to be somewhere in peace.  Simply pushing people out puts a lot of stress on us all.  

Still one cannot but applaud the efforts of a lot of city / outreach workers and interfaith volunteers seeking to make what could have been a truly disheartening situation in Fullerton into a far more hopeful one.

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

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