MAURA MIKULEC, Capistrano Beach
On the morning of Jan. 28, when arriving at work, the director of the San Clemente Senior Center found a 73-year-old man who slept there most nights, and had for years. That morning, he was dead. Why are people dying on our streets?
In such a rich county, this preventable loss of life raises many questions. How much money is given to contracted nonprofits to connect people to care? How much money is given to county agencies to do outreach? How much money is spent on law enforcement for their homeless liaison program? How much money is spent on code enforcement? How much money is spent building and operating shelters? (None in southernmost Orange County.) How much money is left on the table, not being spent at all?
According to the county Office of Care Coordination, there is still money from the CARES Act that could be used to offer seniors and at-risk people motel rooms. The money, part of Project Roomkey, would pay for motel rooms, food, and case management. That money could save lives. Could. But it didn’t. Why not? There are fingers pointing every which way.
This senior gentleman, who died outside of the senior center where he had lunch most days, shouldn’t have died on that sidewalk. While a room or a shelter could’ve possibly saved him, all the outreach programs in the world and programs like Project Roomkey, even a shelter will do little toward permanently getting people like him off the street.
We need affordable housing in South County where someone’s Social Security check can pay their rent. And we need Permanent Supportive Housing for our homeless neighbors with disabilities.
And in San Clemente, while the city and the county point fingers at each other, and the city council, with the support of many community members, obstructs any possibility of providing housing for homeless disabled people, nothing gets done that will prevent this suffering, inhumanity, and death.
I hope people will let their elected officials—county and city—know they want housing in their communities for homeless neighbors to be a priority.