Over the weekend, someone asked me when I was having my annual Christmas Open House. It looks like I haven’t been making the announcement clearly enough, so the invitation flyer is the first graphic below.
On December 6th, the 23rd anniversary of Orange County filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, we’re hosting an open house at my District Office. I know December calendars are nuts, but if you can fit it in, it would be great to have you. And, you’ll probably see a lot of old friends.
I’ll also be providing more information on the historic event that changed the course of my life in the next UPDATE or two (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Scandals, Corruption, and Reform — December 1, 2017).
The second date to be concerned about is December 21. It is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year; making it also the longest night of the year. Which means that those who are homeless and out on the streets will experience the longest night of darkness and cold. Consequently, it is an appropriate day to recognize those homeless who have passed away. Nearly 200 homeless individuals passed away in 2016.
To better explain what is occurring, I copied the following from this website, http://nationalhomeless.org/about-us/projects/memorial-day/:
The National Coalition for the Homeless, the National Consumer Advisory Board and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council encourage communities to host public events on or near December 21 remembering your neighbors who have died homeless in the past year. National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day takes place each year on the longest night of the year, December 21st.
I advocated for a memorial site for those homeless individuals who passed away while on our streets when I was a County Supervisor and Chair of the Commission to End Homelessness. Regretfully, I did not get this completed during my final term. However, the Board did establish a memorial site for crime victims.
Sunday’s Daily Pilot, in the second piece below, provides the details of a service that I will be participating in and, of course, you are invited to attend if your calendar permits.
The “Rock Memorial” at a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River Trail in
Anaheim on Nov. 29. Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day will be held Dec. 21. (Kevin
Chang / Staff Photographer)
Orange County’s dead
Over and over again, he witnessed the slow decay before the light left their eyes.
Their deaths manifold, but always in the quiet shadows of Orange County.
There will be memorials and an art show at three different venues.
A military tribute will be held for deceased homeless veterans at Civic Center Plaza County Hall of Administration in Santa Ana. Houchen said the event is the first time deceased homeless veterans will be honored in the county.
There will be a color guard, possibly a 21-gun salute and state Sens. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) and John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) are scheduled to speak.
The deceased homeless will then be honored during a ceremony at the Anaheim Cemetery. The keynote speaker will be state Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton).
Houchen said he’s planning a visual aspect to the homeless memorial to help people grasp the magnitude of the 200-plus deaths. Last year, he fastened gravestone-shaped cards with the names of the dead onto a fence.
This year’s event will likely be more sophisticated considering the evolution of the memorial ceremony.
Houchen first came across the national event while studying in the law library next to the Civic Center encampment.
“I thought, ‘What a wonderful way to pay tribute and raise community awareness,’” Houchen said.
He and his group of friends gathered at the Civic Center in 2013 for the first time memorializing the comrades they’d lost that year.
Since that time, Houchen has sought to improve the memorial.
“It gives people that have so much a moment to think about people that have so little,” Houchen said.
An art show will also be featured as part of the memorial at the Melisa Finds Gallery in Santa Ana. Minister and artist Joshua Correa, 36, was commissioned by Houchen to organize the art show.
Correa said the exhibition will feature three types of artwork: Commemorations of the homeless who died, works from professional artists exploring homelessness and art by homeless people.
Correa, community engagement director at Well of Life Church in Placentia, has been teaching art classes at the Bridges at Kraemer Place homeless shelter in Anaheim for about a month. The artwork gleaned from those classes will be used in the memorial exhibit.
Houchen escaped homelessness in 2015 after about four years on the street. Now living a modest life with his wife in an apartment, he can’t help but feel some shame for his rescue.
“I suffer from survivor’s guilt,” Houchen said. “I was fortunate to get into permanent supportive housing. At the same time, I had friends — their images pressed in my mind. These guys, they needed a place just as bad if not more than me. I am the lucky one.
“If they’d been given the same opportunity, I can’t help but think some of those 200 folks would have lived.”
The images of the deceased homeless that Houchen has known over the years hold true in his mind. This year was no different; others he once knew passed on.
He’ll remember them, but how will the community receive their deaths?
Houchen hopes the memorial will provide the county’s residents with a sense of the suffering and loss of life endured by homeless people. In accomplishing that feat, their quiet suffering won’t be futile.
“We are honoring their memories, and by remembering them by name, we kind of make it that their suffering and lives aren’t in vain,” Houchen said. “We are telling the public about this serious crisis. I think that’s what they would want.”
Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day schedule:
10 a.m. Dec. 21: Military tribute for deceased homeless veterans at Civic Center Plaza County Hall of Administration, Building # 10, 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd.
3:30 p.m.: Memorial for the deceased homeless of the county at the Anaheim Cemetery at 1400 E. Sycamore St.
6 p.m.: Homeless art show at Melisa Finds Gallery at 201 N. Main St., Santa Ana
For more information, visit hope4restoration.org.
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