Homeless deaths memorialized on the longest night of the year
COUNTY OF ORANGE, CA— The year 2018 has been hard for the homeless community in Orange County, CA. A federal lawsuit over a homeless encampment is in the center of controversy because of The Orange County Board of Supervisors’ vote to evict the homeless from The Riverbed, city officials in Santa Ana evicting the homeless from the Civic Center Business District, the opening of shelters and forcing the homeless into shelters or coerced with threats of arrest by police departments, including Santa Ana Police Department and Anaheim Police Department, among others. Also for evicting homeless people from parks like Maxwell Park in the City of Anaheim and transporting them by bus to a new shelter. All this was remembered at a memorial held at Anaheim Cemetery to remember the 244 official homeless deaths, not including the uncounted homeless deaths.
One of the deaths was Betty Jane Willis, a 60s soul singer admired by Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers. A co-founder of the grassroots group, “The Civic Center Roundtable,” Robert Jr. Wannamaker pressured The County of Orange Supervisors to open the doors to The Courtyard Transitional Shelter in Santa Ana. A homeless family of four, including children who were found dead in a van, were among the deaths in 2018.
The memorial was organized by Tim Houchen (Civic Center Roundtable former member) and founder of Hope4Restoration. Among those remembering the ones that have passed were family members, friends and county officials represented at the memorial.
While shelters are short-term solutions for the homeless, the lack of affordable housing, adequate long-term housing, and mismanagement of funds by nonprofits as well as by the local government, has put more people living on the streets. Some of them have jobs but can’t afford a basic living.
Orange County officials need to disabuse their constituents of the myth that homeless people are intruders who can simply be ordered away. The hard reality is that homelessness is a homegrown problem, and putting a dent in it is a long, slow, expensive process—and everyone in Orange County needs to realize that.