Twenty three people died without fixed abode, homeless in OC in May, 2021. Their names are: 

Brian KELLY who died on May 2nd in Midway City, Joseph BLAIN, JR. who died on May 3rd in Costa Mesa, Francis ROSS who died on May 5th in Orange, Irma CORONADO who died on May 6th in Anaheim, Timothy INGALLS who died on May 7th in Santa Ana, Janie ACOSTA who died on May 12th in Tustin, Jonette SCHWARZ who died on May 12th in Anaheim, Brandon ARCHIBALD who died on May 15th in Orange, Daniel CAMPBELL who died on May 16th in Santa Ana, Noel CORDOVA who died on May 16th in Santa Ana, Lauriano ESTRADA who died on May 18th in Anaheim, Jair QUIRARTE who died on May 21st in Santa Ana, Javier LANDEROS-CERVANTES who died on May 21st in Santa Ana, Cheryl MILLER who died on May 22nd in Placentia, Shelley LEHMANN who died on May 22nd in Dana Point, Sabas SERAFIN who died on May 22nd in Lake Forest, Elif IMECE who died on May 23rd in Huntington Beach, David HILCHEY who died on May 24th in Orange, Ivan MENDOZA who died on May 26th in Santa Ana, Michael LINDSTROM who died on May 28th in Anaheim, Jung YOO who died on May 28th in Santa Ana, Damon LUCERO who died on May 30th in Costa Mesa, and Richard MATTHEWS who died on May 31st in Westminster.

In 2019, the last year before COVID-19 there were 14.  Last May, during one of the peaks of the pandemic, the number of deaths were 30.  Since the first of this year, 155 people “without fixed abode” died in OC.  Last year, 2020, which included 2 ½ months before the onset of COVID-19 there were 130 deaths in this category over the same period, in 2019 the last year before COVID-19 there were only 85.  So it should be clear that people are dying “without fixed abode” in OC at a far greater rate than before the pandemic, though perhaps the rate of death is decreasing with the pandemic’s ease.

The question remains why?  Why has the rate of death among those without fixed abode in OC so increased, at its height more than doubled, even now remained nearly double to that before the pandemic?

Probably the simplest answer would be that the increased isolation created by the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the challenges / pressures faced by those reduced to living on our streets:  The pandemic has generally reduced contact with others who would have otherwise been providing some material and even emotional support.  It has made all people including those living on the streets more hesitant to call for medical assistance when needed.  Finally, simple loneliness and stress generally push one toward all kinds of self-damaging / self-destructive behaviors.  People don’t generally self-medicate when they are happy … Some of these stressors are thankfully on their way down.   So one should expect the death rate among OC’s persons who find themselves “without fixed abode” to decline as well.

This should be good news.  Hopeful as well is the prospect that the OC Commission to End Homelessness will start meeting more frequently.  The Commission met in April [1] [2].  There was at least an agenda posted for May though no minutes.  This month, June, its meeting appears to have been cancelled because it’s summer.  Yet, one does hope that some of the slides from the presentation that would have been presented at the May meeting would begin to be filled in with concrete action.

Where we’ve certainly kept the question of homelessness both urgent and visible, here in Fullerton, I do wish to report and correct a number of things.  First, last month I wrote that through the actions of the City in collaboration with its faith community perhaps one third to one half of the 30+ people have been helped.  However, that may have been overly optimistic.  It seems now that only six people out of those thirty have definitely been helped — two were helped to travel to Oregon (way outside of Orange County…) and four people entered into the new Fullerton Navigation Center.  Another ten or so appear to be eligible for Operation Homekey, but various still unresolved challenges have remained. 

The visible sign of the delay are five RVs, involving a number approaching 10 people, parked on Walnut Dr (one street over from Valencia Dr) to the frustration of truly everyone involved, not the least to the RV owners themselves.  

The simplest solution would be to simply give them some place, out of the way, to park while their cases work toward resolution.  As of now, all five of those RVs are functioning, though a number of them may still have smog check issues. If definitely threatened with impound, the RV owners would simply go … elsewhere.  

If then stopped and impounded for failure to show that they passed their smog check, the city, any city, doing impounding would inherit people now dispossessed of what had been their home.

I still remember my teachers in both 8th grade and again during my junior year in high school waxing eloquently about how the 4th Amendment was supposed to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures.  It would seem to me that seizing one’s home over a failed smog check or expired vehicle registration to say nothing of a parking violation seems like the very definition of an unreasonable seizure.  This would be especially true since a less drastic remedy would be to simply direct or tow the vehicle to a designated lot and put a boot on the vehicle if necessary until one could put the vehicle’s papers back in order, but where one could continue to live in the vehicle if that’s the only recourse that one had.  

But this is where we are.  During the past year, we’ve heard OC Supervisors wax eloquently about relatively rich people having “the right to golf,” and have watched pumped-up maskless mothers yelling at said Supervisors demanding that their daughters have “the right” to go maskless to the prom.  But … take away a poor person’s home?  Do we look at ourselves in the mirror?  Does this make sense?  Just give these poor people some place to park.

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

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