Overnight temperatures are expected to dip to the high 30s tonight and linger around there for the next couple nights in Orange County – conditions that officials warn can cause illnesses like hypothermia.
And homeless people in OC may not have anywhere to go.
The Orange County Health Care Agency issued a news release yesterday warning of the temperatures dropping today through Thursday in inland, coastal and south Orange County.
Officials pointed to the temporary cold weather shelter without walk-ins in Fullerton that opened up in February – a couple months into the cold weather season.
[Read: Orange County to Open Cold Weather Homeless Shelter in Fullerton]
Except that shelter closed down Friday, as reported by LAist last week.
Molly Nichelson, a county spokesperson, confirmed in a Tuesday email that the shelter closed and wrote that the Health Care Agency issued a revised news release.
“The County of Orange Cold Weather Emergency Shelter is no longer open. For information on accessing support, call 211,” the revised release reads.
Nichelson said people have been made aware of the closure and have been provided a list of shelters that are available.
“The County has been working with our providers and city partners on placing and assisting persons who have utilized the Emergency Cold Weather Shelter since its opening,” she said.
She did not explain why the error occurred in the initial press release.
The weather warning comes as homeless folks in OC have already faced a cold and wet winter season without a temporary shelter in December and January.
The delay in opening the usual yearly temporary shelter came after Santa Ana officials – who say they’ve carried the brunt of the response to the homeless crisis – took a stand against having a cold weather shelter in their city and filed a lawsuit.
The legal dispute killed a County of Orange contract with the Salvation Army to operate the shelter and delayed an emergency rain refuge for the homeless by months, until another location was identified in Fullerton.
According to a Fullerton city staff report, the shelter was expected to remain open until sometime between the end of March and the end of April depending on the need.
[Read: Fullerton and Orange County Might Open Temporary Homeless Shelter Without Walk-ins]
“Historically the emergency cold weather shelter has ended on March 31. Our contract with our provider ended on this date,” Nichelson wrote.
During the cold weather, groups like Wound Walk and Families Together of Orange County have been using street medics and mobile teams to reach people on the ground and provide them with medical assistance and support and even socks.
[Read: Trench Foot & Infections: Street Medics Treating Homeless People Brace for Storm Aftermath]
The expected dip in temperature also comes after the county’s first homeless death review committee released its inaugural report on homeless people deaths in 2021 that showed deaths of people living on the street have been on the rise for the last decade.
The report shows that 395 homeless people died in OC in 2021.
And people are continuing to die on OC streets.
Every month in Voice of OC’s community opinion selection, Father Dennis Kriz of St. Philip Benizi’s Church in Fullerton details the names of the people who’ve died.
Kriz’s latest count showed 44 people died in February and lists the names of the people who passed away.
Last year’s County point in time count shows there were 5,718 homeless people in OC and 3,057 of them were unsheltered.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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