Another 27 people died “without fixed abode” in October 2022.  Their names are:

Salvador ALCALA, JR. who died on October 1st in Anaheim

Taylor BAIRD who died on October 1st in Anaheim

Zachary MCDONALD who died on October 3rd in Fountain Valley

Benjamin FARLEY who died on October 4th in Orange

Felipe VASQUEZ who died on October 4th in Orange

Angel ROBLEDO JARA who died on October 5th in Anaheim

Jimmy GUTIERREZ who died on October 5th in Anaheim

Kevin SULLIVAN who died on October 11th in Garden Grove

Miguel JUAREZ/JIMENEZ who died on October 11th in Anaheim

Cami MENCHACA who died on October 12th in Stanton

Thomas SCHIMKE, JR. who died on October 16th in Laguna Hills

Krystal BARNES who died on October 17th in Cypress

Jose de Jesus MEJIA-BALTAZAR who died on October 18th in Santa Ana

Phuc NGUYEN who died on October 18th in Orange

Jose GASPERIN who died on October 21st in Orange

Caroline HUBBERT who died on October 22nd in Anaheim

Patricia DALE who died on October 22nd in Santa Ana

Armando MOLINA who died on October 23rd in Santa Ana

Darryl SCHRAGE who died on October 23rd in Mission Viejo

Paul PABON who died on October 24th in Anaheim

Jacob HEATH who died on October 25th in Fullerton

Duane MCMILLEN who died on October 25th in Fountain Valley

Frank SITTSER who died on October 26th in Fullerton

Nathan ANDERSON who died on October 27th in Anaheim

Infant Male RUBIO who died on October 28th in Anaheim

Infant female RUBIO who died on October 28th in Anaheim

Russell GIORGINI who died on October 31st in Huntington Beach

By our month-by-month tally, this comes to 400 people having died “without fixed abode” since the beginning of the year, or 6.9% of the County’s beginning of the year homeless population.  (Note:  Readers following my monthly column, may expect the number to be 398.  However, over the course of the year, the Coroner’s office has added two more names to the list, though having died during months previous.   Hence the total is 400.  The list of all those who died between Dec 1, 2021, and Nov 30, 2000, will be published here again for the commemoration of “The Longest Night” or Homeless Memorial Day on December 21, 2022). 

Given that the total of deaths already exceeds last year’s total of 381 from the previous year, with two months to go, one could take the remainder of this column in several directions.

However, with the results of the recent election, I’m going to go in a hopeful direction.

While we can certainly choose to remain paralyzed in our approach to the homelessness crisis, I do believe that there is a path forward to quickly and significantly move the County forward.

About a month ago, I really did meet with County BOS Chair Doug Chaffee as well as Douglas Becht of the OC Health Agency.  And I really did take to the meeting the mother with her three-year-old daughter of whom I had been writing at length previously.

And while the presence of a truly vivacious three-year-old at the meeting did not necessarily help its efficiency, I do think it left an unforgettable impression. 

We’re all human beings and all of us are able to (and did) enter for an hour into the world of the mother of that three-year-old and understand just how hard it is to visit a veritable alphabet soup of agencies to fill out forms in hopes of eventually getting some assistance from someone … with that happy go lucky three-year-old pointing out “all the butterflies” in tow.

Therefore, I really do believe that the way forward for the County would be to immediately hand out hotel vouchers to families with minor children to put a roof over their heads for the duration of however long it would take to get these families a permanent roof over their heads through the (clearly not so) rapid rehousing programs that already exist. 

The County’s 2022 PIT Count found that there were 94 unsheltered families (comprising 251 persons including 121 children) in OC in January 2022.  If the County did nothing else but give each of these 94 families a $100/night hotel voucher as needed, and if needed for an entire year, it would cost the County $3,431,000 for the year.   If it did so for all 389 families (including the 295 families that were at least sheltered), then the cost $14,198,500 for the year.

Further, if the County simply put every single one of the County’s homeless 718 seniors (aged 62+, 418 sheltered, 300 unsheltered) into hotel rooms at $100/night until Cal Optima could get them into the assisted living that most would be eligible for, the cost of $26,207,000 / year.

Scammers from outside the County could be sent back to their counties, and parents who really would not be doing the work to get assistance could stand to lose their kids without punishing the kids by keeping them on the streets along with their parents.  So, if one needed enforcement, there it could be.

But the alternative is to return to a Dickensonian world where the rich are stepping over children sleeping in the mud, with ragtag elderly sitting on cardboard boxes selling apples along the sidewalks. 

Even if one has no faith at all, one would hope that the ghosts of said Charles Dickens or Victor Hugo – yes the musical (!!) based on his, what should have been understood as a true horror novel “Les Miserables” has been a smash (and yes, I suppose one singer could sing the role of “Jean Valjean” better than another, but …) – should haunt us (screaming!) into submission.

Finally, I simply no longer believe that 211 is simply “incapable” of sending families with little kids and elderly with COPD somewhere (or having assistance come to them) during “off hours” so that these clear-as-day (!) vulnerable people wouldn’t have to sleep another night without a roof over their heads.

Imagine if 911 worked that way: 

“We’re sorry that your house is burning down now, but we can not provide you with assistance until Monday at 9 AM.  Call back then,” or

“Oh, what a shame, if you had made it here to the ER 15 minutes ago, someone could have helped you.  But here is a list of possible agencies that may help you tomorrow and as well as some links to some really quite excellent YouTube videos about CPR…”

Why do we allow 211 to provide homeless “assistance” in this way?   Take two steps back to get some perspective and understand that the excuses simply don’t hold water.  If we can provide emergency services in other matters, we can provide them here.  We’re just not doing so, but we can change this.

There are of course other matters to revisit.  Why does the County force people who find themselves homeless to lose their cars (and therefore their continued employability) rather than provide them someplace, ANY PLACE, to LEGALLY PARK? 

These are things that can be done more or less immediately.  And then we can approach the harder cases. 

The harder cases do exist, but insisting on focusing on the harder cases while keeping a mother with a three-year-old or a 60-year-old with an obvious heart condition on the streets “because nothing can be done” is simply not credible … and it kills.

Let us listen to the better angels of our souls and choose to do better.  We can.

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

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