People waiting in front of the food pantry run by the parish SVdP Soc. at St Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Fullerton. About 1/4 of the people who come for assistance are homeless in the area.

Another 42 people died “without fixed abode” in Orange County in September.  Their names are:

Chris VILLALOBOS SR. who died on Sept 1st in Orange

Robert WHORTON who died on Sept 3rd in Huntington Beach

Joel WORTH who died on Sept 4th in Newport Beach

Billy CARR JR. who died on Sept 4th in Los Alamitos

Jason LONG who died on Sept 4th in Newport Beach

Scott ROBINSON who died on Sept 7th in Dana Point

Bradford ALLEN who died on Sept 7th in Anaheim

Gary WARBRICK JR. who died on Sept 7th in Fountain Valley

Roger HANKINS who died on Sept 8th in Orange

Mark RUBIDOUX who died on Sept 9th in Anaheim

Anthony CORDOVA JR. who died on Sept 9th in Santa Ana

Austin DEROBERTIS who died on Sept 10th in Placentia

Kay REEVES who died on Sept 11th in Garden Grove

James HELMS who died on Sept 13th in Garden Grove

Steven BLOOM who died on Sept 13th in Fountain Valley

Daniel DUBOIS who died on Sept 14th in Placentia

Jeanette BREAUX who died on Sept 14th in Los Alamitos

Louis ORNELAS who died on Sept 14th in Newport Beach

Scott BEST who died on Sept 14th in Huntington Beach

Tyler ANDREWS who died on Sept 14th in Irvine

Jesus ROSAS PAQUE who died on Sept 14th in Anaheim

Denis WINSBY who died on Sept 14th in San Juan Capistrano

Hilda SARAVIA-LINARES who died on Sept 16th in San Juan Capistrano

Moises MEJIA who died on Sept 16th in Santa Ana

Jack WILLIAMS, JR. who died on Sept 16th in Orange

Juan REYES who died on Sept 16th in Anaheim

Channing CARDEN who died on Sept 17th in Garden Grove

Michael DATUIN who died on Sept 18th in San Juan Capistrano

Raul MOLINA GARCIA who died on Sept 19th in Santa Ana

Jennifer SPEER who died on Sept 19th in Orange

Michael BARILLA who died on Sept 21st in Huntington Beach

Irene VASQUEZ who died on Sept 21st in Anaheim

Daniella MIELE who died on Sept 22nd in Fountain Valley

Kyle DINSMORE who died on Sept 23rd in Anaheim

Deborah HOLMES who died on Sept 23rd in Costa Mesa

Skyler COOPER who died on Sept 23rd in Huntington Beach

Norman DOIRON who died on Sept 26th in Newport Beach

Amber GARCIA who died on Sept 27th in Garden Grove

Rigoberto RAMOS who died on Sept 27th in Laguna Hills

John MILLON who died on Sept 28th in Anaheim

Margarita LUNA who died on Sept 29th in Santa Ana

Armando ESTRADA-URCINO who died on Sept 29th in San Juan Capistrano

For the year, 371 people have died in OC “without fixed abode.”  Last year a total of 381 people died in OC “without fixed abode” for the entire year.  So as of the end of September, we were 10 less than last year’s entire total with 3 months (a quarter of the year) to go. 

Put another way, taking Orange County’s 2022 Point in Time Count seriously, a full 6.5% of the County’s beginning of the year homeless population of 5718 people has already died, with three more months of the year to go. 

If nothing changes, and there is no reason to believe that anything will change, between 8-10% of the County’s beginning of the year homeless population will be dead by year’s end.  By the next time the County conducts a Point in Time Count in January 2024, between 16-20% of its homeless population from the previous count will be dead.

How to get out of this mess?

Let’s begin with the simple proposition that it benefits absolutely NO ONE to keep people desperate from sleeping on our streets, in our parks, or alleyways. 

The principal excuse for doing nothing is that “people who are homeless don’t want to go to shelters.” 

Yet pretty much every time someone comes to me asking for help to get into a shelter when I call with them for said help we’re told that the shelters are unfortunately full for the day to try the next day.

Occasionally, I’m told that the person may have some deep dark Kafkaesque secret that the police doing the screening are bound by privacy laws not to disclose but prevents that person from being eligible for admission to a shelter, and I’m left wondering: DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?   Even in the worst case, do we really prefer to keep violent and dangerous people – violent felons and all kinds of sex offenders — on our streets or cheering on our kids as they play soccer or baseball in our parks, rather than putting them up in a shelter?

Sometimes I’m told that the city at hand just doesn’t have the money to send the person at hand to a shelter.    

And these excuses don’t seem to matter regardless of the person I bring in for help.  Yes, sometimes the person is of the classic (and stereotypical) “Cool Hand Luke” variety though, at this point, I’ve had people coming to me asking for help saying: “Yes if it would get me into a shelter or program, I’d happily admit to having a drug problem.  Just get me in somewhere.” 

Others have been seniors who can barely walk, two cases of older men who had obvious trouble breathing (one who after being checked out at an ER was given a cardiologist appointment and then kicked back onto the street presumably to wait several weeks for that appointment sleeping in a cardboard box), and then several families with small children. 

We are told that the County spends $1.4 billion a year on homelessness.  Okay, if the County’s response was simply to put every single person or family that it finds homeless in a hotel room – by the PIT Count there were 5718 people who were homeless in OC – and NOTHING ELSE, the cost would be $209 million / year or about 15% of the cost of what it does now.  

A stable roof over one’s head, a place to take a shower, breathing space to think things through, and being able to wash one’s clothes, immediately make one employable again.   Yes, there will be those who’ll need help more than that.  So double the outlay now to 30% of what the County spends currently on homelessness to add the caseworkers to check up on these people a couple of times a week, perhaps to give these people a few tokens to do their laundry, and help them get their Cal-Fresh food, their SSDI benefits.  It’d still be cheaper and more effective than keeping thousands of people on the streets to just scare and immobilize the rest of us.

But it is not “okay” to continue a system that can’t seem to respond to anybody, not even to mothers with small children or to clearly disabled people who can’t breathe. 

Maybe we can really do better and maybe it really isn’t as hard as we fear.

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

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