Another thirty people died “without fixed abode” (homeless) in Orange County in September 2021, one a day.  Their names are:

Ozzy TUAILA who died on Sept 1st in Garden Grove, Robert CRUM who died on Sept 2nd in Santa Ana, Annamarie SANCHEZ who died on Sept 3rd in Santa Ana, Matthew JACKSON who died on Sept 3rd in Fullerton, Travis MEIKLE who died on Sept 3rd in Santa Ana, Nathaniel HUTCHINSON who died on Sept 5th in Newport Beach, Gary KASEMAN who died on Sept 6th in Buena Park, Donald BARNES who died on Sept 6th in Buena Park, Sophia AMEZQUITA who died on Sept 6th in Huntington Beach, Joseph SMALTZ who died on Sept 8th in Huntington Beach, Carlos GUALIP-GUALIP who died on Sept 8th in Costa Mesa, Charlie HUYNH who died on Sept 9th in Westminster, Timothy GONZALES who died on Sept 10th in Anaheim, Pedro VELAZQUEZ TAPIA who died on Sept 10th in Santa Ana, Mark OYAMA who died on Sept 11th in Westminster, Sterling WERNER who died on Sept 14th in Fullerton, David POWELL who died on Sept 14th in Santa Ana, Ronald DODGE who died on Sept 16th in San Clemente, Phillip CAMACHO who died on Sept 17th in Westminster, Gilbert CARRASCO who died on Sept 17th in Santa Ana, Richard BELL who died on Sept 17th in Buena Park, Crispin WORSHAM who died on Sept 21st in Orange, Danilo MENDEZ who died on Sept 22nd in Sunset Beach, Scott DERRICO who died on Sept 23rd in Anaheim, Robert GAMMILL who died on Sept 23rd in Newport Beach, Timothy PHILLIPS who died on Sept 24th in Huntington Beach, Andrew VELAZQUEZ who died on Sept 24th in Santa Ana, Patcharee SRIPAN who died on Sept 26th in Santa Ana, Lois MABRY who died on Sept 28th in Anaheim and Ernesto ROMERO who died on Sept 29th in Tustin.

Two years ago, in 2019, the last year before COVID-19, the number who died “without fixed abode” in OC September was ten.  Last year there were 32. 

What are the cities/county doing about this?  Well:

In recent months, San Clemente closed down a major encampment within its city limits without offering the people who had been sleeping there an alternative, certainly not within its city limits.  

In the spring, Santa Ana closed the shelters within its borders.  Eventually, a new one will open, but in the meantime (which has now been six months…) it has contracted with Fullerton to ship its homeless people to us.

This has proven to be “just fine” by Fullerton because it has chosen not to apply for the State money that would allow it to send its homeless people to its shelter.   So we here in Fullerton are both subsidizing (by utilization of our space) Santa Ana’s continued inaction, and are we intentionally keeping our homeless people on our streets and in our parks, decreasing the quality of life of all of us, because we ideologically refuse to apply for State money allocated for exactly this purpose, running shelters.

And, of course, the City of Orange is definitely going to shut down Mary’s Kitchen, which cost the City nothing (run by volunteers and paid for by donations), with only the vaguest of promises of doing something for its homeless population after it is gone. 

So it should be little wonder the homeless death rate in OC has doubled and at times tripled in the last several years.

All of this, every bit of it, is of course a choice.  We think we’re being tough, and if that comes to seem overly harsh when we try to explain this in our churches, we may couch this approach in terms of “tough love.” But everyone we keep sleeping on our streets diminishes the quality of life of us all. 

Every “felon” that we choose to keep on our streets continues to threaten us as long we keep him/her there.  Every “drug addict” we choose to keep on our streets and in our parks, every person “with severe mental illness” we choose to leave wandering on our streets continues to make our parks and our streets more dangerous than they need to be.

But imagine how our lives, our sense of well-being, our sense of peace increases, whenever we just get a shower and put on a clean pair of clothes after spending even “a long afternoon in the sun.”   Imagine how we would feel, how we would sound if we didn’t have a shower, or a change of clothes, in weeks.  But we choose to keep people out there, on the streets, increasingly even shoeless “out of …” what exactly??

Yes, in this past month, I had to deal with not one but TWO people who came to us without any shoes at all.  OMG, what are we coming to? 

We can do so much better than this, we don’t have to be cruel, but we have to choose to do better.

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

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