In December 2021 another 35 people died “without fixed abode” in Orange County. Their names are:
Steven RICHTER who died on Dec 1st in Santa Ana
Timothy REEVE who died on Dec 2nd in Costa Mesa
Donald SURPRENANT who died on Dec 2nd in Santa Ana
Doanh PHAM who died on Dec 3rd in Santa Ana
Daniel PALACIOS who died on Dec 3rd in Fullerton
Ralph MCCANN III who died on Dec 3rd in Orange
Matthew BENESI who died on Dec 4th in Lake Forest
William HERNANDEZ who died on Dec 5th in Santa Ana
Tyler CUNNINGHAM who died on Dec 6th in Anaheim
William NIBEEL JR. who died on Dec 7th in Orange
Elsa JAMES who died on Dec 7th in Fullerton
Michael CHARITY who died on Dec 7th in Cypress
Jaime MENDOZA who died on Dec 10th in Fullerton
Brian CROSBY who died on Dec 11th in Santa Ana
Robby ROOK who died on Dec 11th in Placentia
Patrick METLER who died on Dec 11th in Garden Grove
Jacinto ROMERO-BARRERA who died on Dec 11th in San Juan Capistrano
Temple CRABBE who died on Dec 11th in Santa Ana
Robert PROPHET who died on Dec 12th in Mission Viejo
Gregg RADER who died on Dec 12th in Anaheim
Bradley MONTGOMERY who died on Dec 15th in Costa Mesa
Andrea CASTRO who died on Dec 15th in Santa Ana
Giancarlos REYESJOVEL who died on Dec 19th in Santa Ana
Matthew KINDRED who died on Dec 19th in Stanton
Dennis SOMMERS who died on Dec 20th in Huntington Beach
Lan JONES who died on Dec 22nd in Laguna Niguel
Tasha KELLY who died on Dec 23rd in Anaheim
Bianca COPELAND who died on Dec 23rd in Fullerton
Salvador CARDENAS who died on Dec 24th in Anaheim
Brian AUGUSTINE who died on Dec 26th in Anaheim
Eric STIPE who died on Dec 26th in Orange
Todd GOSSON who died on Dec 29th in Tustin
Harold RUTLEDGE who died on Dec 29th in Anaheim
Michael GREENWOOD who died on Dec 30th in Fullerton
Leonard GUILLEN JR who died on Dec 31st in Anaheim
Their deaths bring the total of those who died “without fixed abode” in OC for the calendar year to 381. In 2020, the total was 325 and in 2019, the last year before COVID-19 the total was 209.
In the lead-up to Homeless Memorial Day, Dec 21st, both the OC Register and the OC edition of the LA Times ran articles on the record death toll, and both made note that about 2/3 of those who died “without fixed abode” died apparently of drug overdoses, which inevitably serves to suggest that these people’s deaths were at least in part “their own fault.”
My purpose here, beyond reminding everyone that drug use is at least as much (and probably much more) an effect of being reduced to sleeping on the streets as its cause, is to reiterate that it truly benefits no one to keep people sleeping on the streets. Those who are reduced to such an existence may pay the ultimate price, but we are all both impoverished and the quality of all of our lives is diminished by keeping people sleeping on our streets.
First, let us finally come to appreciate that the simultaneous boredom (being reduced to sitting around, all day, every day protecting one’s remaining stuff from being stolen) and stress (knowing that at any moment someone, almost anyone, could come by and demand that one pick-up one’s remaining stuff and go somewhere, anywhere, where else) is virtually a prescription for drug abuse. If one isn’t self-medicating when one first comes to live on the street, then one will be sucked into that reality eventually. And yes, heroin becomes probably the cheapest way to go… “it’s a lot cheaper than Bourbon” …
But second, while anti-public intoxication laws could be enforced in California / anywhere, if we wanted to, we don’t enforce them because, at the end of the day, we continue to have no places for people to go after they dry out.
The solution here is really to follow the wisdom of the 2018 Boise Decision: Just provide people with a place to go (and by extension for those who still have vehicles a place to park).
If one doesn’t have places for these people to go, then taking them away somewhere to dry out makes no sense, because, at the end of the day, these people will just be dumped onto the street again in the same situation that they were in when they were found drunk, passed out or high.
If we choose not to recognize that so long as someone is alive, one has a right to exist, somewhere, then this problem will continue … forever.
So rather than look for excuses to do nothing (and then complain about “all these homeless people everywhere”) let’s just make the New Year’s resolution that come January of next year, this problem would be resolved, that NO ONE in this County would have no place to go.
It’s doable, it’s morally doable, and yes, even the ACLU could be onboard (for instance, the U.N. has run effective refugee camps for the whole of its 80 years of existence, with all the various human rights organizations both monitoring the refugee camps and on board with them). Homelessness remains a solvable problem. So let’s solve it rather than just complain.
Fr. Dennis Kriz, OSM, Pastor St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church, Fullerton.
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