Another 44 people died “without fixed abode” in OC in February. Their names are:
Joe LUNA who died on February 1st in Westminster
Tyson GRAHAM who died on February 1st in Huntington Beach
Adam PEREZ who died on February 1st in San Juan Capistrano
Steve NGUYEN who died on February 3rd in Garden Grove
Klee BROOKS who died on February 3rd in Brea
Amanda SCHENDEN who died on February 3rd in Stanton
Ryan FISHER who died on February 5th in Westminster
Israel RODRIGUEZ who died on February 5th in Garden Grove
Christian PETERSON who died on February 7th in Santa Ana
Baltazar DIAZDIAZ who died on February 7th in Fountain Valley
Mike VILLAFLORES who died on February 8th in Garden Grove
Stephen ABBOTT who died on February 8th in San Clemente
Walter GOMEZ-JUAREZ who died on February 8th in Placentia
Rebecca POWERS who died on February 9th in San Clemente
Adel KHILFEH who died on February 10th in Santa Ana
Austin HEISELMAN who died on February 10th in La Habra
Ramon CASTRO who died on February 10th in Tustin
Roosevelt HARRISON who died on February 10th in Santa Ana
Rafael GARCIA who died on February 11th in Santa Ana
Kenan TANRIVERDI who died on February 12th in Santa Ana
Luis ASTUDILLO who died on February 13th in Costa Mesa
Solofa TUILAEPA who died on February 14th in Garden Grove
Luis BARON who died on February 14th in Anaheim
Isabell BAILEY who died on February 16th in Anaheim
Justin KAN who died on February 16th in Capistrano Beach
Jason REED who died on February 16th in Fullerton
Edward RICKS who died on February 18th in Laguna Hills
Lisa MIRANDA who died on February 19th in Orange
Carlos MARTINEZ PEREZ who died on February 20th in Santa Ana
Richard TOZER who died on February 20th in Anaheim
Jacqueline FALK who died on February 22nd in Orange
Juan VARGAS ORTEGA who died on February 22nd in Santa Ana
John KEMP who died on February 22nd in Huntington Beach
Arland WISE who died on February 24th in Huntington Beach
Lawrence NARCISSE who died on February 25th in Garden Grove
Bradley MILLS who died on February 25th in Huntington Beach
Patricia MURRAY who died on February 25th in Lake Forest
David MATHER who died on February 26th in Anaheim
Benjamin DIPPLE who died on February 26th in Fullerton
Gary GILLETTE who died on February 26th in Fullerton
Deborah FLOYD who died on February 26th in Fullerton
Thomas LEPPIN who died on February 26th in Fountain Valley
Shawn MYERS who died on February 27th in Fullerton
Brandy SISCO who died on February 27th in Anaheim
Additionally, there was one person who died without fixed abode in January 2023 who was previously not listed. His name was:
Joseph WOODS who died on January 31st in Huntington Beach
Two months into the year, the total number of homeless deaths is 92. Last year it was 92 as well. In 2021 it was 69, in 2020 it was 43, in 2019 it was 34. So the death rate among OC’s homeless remains between 2.5 – 3x (2.70x) that of the rate in 2019.
That is of course shocking. So it was big news here that the OC’s Homeless Death Review Board announced at the beginning of 2022 and headed by OC Sheriff Barnes on Feb 27th released its findings on the clear spike in homeless deaths from 217 in 2019 to 395 in 2021.
Unsurprisingly, Fentanyl was attributed to about 144 of those 395 deaths (or 36.4% of the total).
More surprising was the finding 309 or 78.2% of the 395 people who had died homeless in OC in 2021 had an episode of incarceration in OC. Of those:
242 (61.2% of the total nearly 100 more than those who had died of fentanyl related causes) had been incarcerated for less than a month,
168 (42.5% of the death total and still more than the 144 people whose cause of death was attributed to fentanyl) had been incarcerated for less than a week,
75 (or 19.0% of the total number of homeless deaths, and more than ½ of the fentanyl related homeless death total) had been incarcerated for less than one day (!).
The clear conclusion to make here is that the effects of petty incarceration kill homeless people.
How? Let me offer the following thought experiment to illustrate the point:
I’ve long ago come to appreciate that Incarceration is generally a disruptive (and traumatizing) experience. It is far more than simply “time served.”
Even a housed person incarcerated for more than a few days stands increasingly likely to lose one’s job, and after a few weeks stands increasingly likely to lose one’s home along with most of one’s attendant belongings.
And the disruptive effect of incarceration becomes magnified for a person who is already homeless.
Any incarceration at all in such a case will almost certainly result in the person who was already homeless losing a good portion of one’s remaining belongings. And even after release, it is a challenge to both recover any belongings that may have been put into police custody during one’s incarceration and then to return to one’s friends and environs that one knew prior to one’s arrest and short-term incarceration.
Further, one is generally released with a whole list of future court dates and other mandatory appointments. Yet without means of transportation and then a safe place to keep one’s possessions while at said court dates and appointments, it currently is almost impossible to make them all, hence all but guaranteeing further petty incarcerations in the future.
The stressors – yes honestly leading to “self-medication” — here are therefore obvious.
What to do? Let me suggest a couple of things:
First, though hospital administrations generally don’t like this to be widely known, by the Hippocratic Oath (or certainly its spirit), hospitals are morally obliged to not discharge anyone who has no safe place to go. So if a person who is homeless and has been admitted to a hospital says the magic words: “I have no safe place to go” prior to signing any discharge papers, the hospital is morally obliged to find the person housing options prior to discharge (and the person who is homeless could call a lawyer-advocate prior to consenting to discharge to insist on the matter).
Again, this may seem surprising, but I personally have experience with people who’ve come to me with obvious medical conditions that I’ve had to argue on behalf of so that they are not kicked back onto the street to wait for their “cardiology appointment” for days or even weeks while they sleep in a box. Such arguing is unpleasant for all, but the point remains: hospitals can not knowingly discharge people into the streets who tell them that they have no safe place to go.
So if hospitals are morally obliged to not discharge anyone with no place to go, then jails could be required to do something similar. No, I’m not saying to keep people incarcerated beyond their terms but to require the jails to offer “halfway house” services (or even a hotel room) to people who were in jail but clearly have no place to go.
Yes, this may be a surprising proposal, but until it is proposed, even here, theoretically, it can not be discussed, much less, eventually implemented.
But let me end my article by returning to the finding that petty incarceration (less than 1 month) killed nearly 100 more people (242 to 144 out of 395) who were homeless in OC in 2021 than fentanyl did.
And that’s certainly an eye-opener.
Fr. Dennis Kriz, OSM, Pastor St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church, Fullerton.
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