Today is ‘Homeless Memorial Day’; 12:45 March at Santa Ana’s ‘Walk of Honor’


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I’m not normally one for made up holidays — but I’ll go along with this one.

Today is “National Homeless Memorial Day.”  (I didn’t know it was “National” until today; locally it’s commemoration has been driven largely by Anaheim homeless activist Tim Houchen, who seems perfectly capable of coming up with a stirring idea like this.  While we certainly do have a problem with homelessness here in OC, and while our homeless people do die needlessly — from violence, from transmitted disease, from neglect of treatable medical conditions — for people like me who’ve spent over a decade living in cold weather one can easily picture the image that likely spurred creation of the holiday: what seems like annual (or much more frequent) images of homeless people homeless people dying of exposure.  Homeless woman dies frozen to death on park bench.  Homeless man found buried under snow drift in street.  Homeless teen dies after being admitted to emergency room with what witnesses described as “bluish skin.”  Complications from frostbite.  Complications from pneumonia.  Complications from injuries sustained in a fall from trying to get to better shelter.

I have some sympathy for the argument that serving the homeless the way they deserve based on their intrinsic human dignity will bring more homeless here — although I have little sympathy for the implicit argument that we must therefore make the lives of the homeless even more miserable so that they will leave.  Yes, humane treatment of the homeless may well attract more of homeless here; that’s only logical.  And yet, let’s remember the other side of the coin: they’ll probably come here anyway much of the time because of something that people who live in decent shelter may forget — that people in Southern California are less likely to freeze to death than ones in most of the country.

Is this an unfair burden to us here?  Sure, in a sense, it is — but it’s also somewhat sick to claim that it’s “fair” to burden homeless people with the option of freezing to death.

Of course, there is an option that can reduce the burden on Southern (and to a lesser extent Northern) California: GIVE THEM HOMES.  And YES, this is where it is reasonable for us to demand that the rest of the country pick up the slack — and yes, to meddle in the elections of other poorer states so that they’ll help to elect a federal government that will treat this as a national issue.  We have the more moderate climate, it is true; but other states have the more moderately priced housing stock.  Given a realistic choice between being able to sleep outdoors in Orange County, California or Orange County, Florida and the ability to live in a home — yep, even if it’s for free, and includes basic utilities — in the Orange Counties in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, or Indiana, we can expect that a lot of people would gladly take the homes.  And housing stock there is much cheaper.

Not only that, but not having to wheel so many people dying of exposure into the emergency rooms — which have to cover their costs (for social policy reasons that I’ll bet will have to be explained in comments to people who don’t understand why “just let them die” will tend to have blowback once the homeless figure out that that’s our social policy) — housing them and keeping them reasonably healthy is actually cheaper, if the idea of not abandoning your fellow human beings is not motivation enough for you.  (Credit Utah, as I understand it, with figuring that one out.)

So far as I know, this is our first commemoration of this solemn “holiday” here in OC.  As you think of it, remember not only the homeless we see around us, but those in other parts of the country for whom the significance of this day falling on the Winter Solstice is not at all lost.  Our representatives in DC should be calling for a serious, humane, and enlightened housing policy — and horse-trading to make it happen.  And if and when that does happen, we may find that we here are among those who benefit the most.  Yes, we’ll still have our homegrown homeless — but we’ll have fewer people who come here out of desperation, because they know what it’s like to be so cold you wonder if you’ll die.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)