The count takes place every two years: volunteers hit the streets of Orange County and try to get an accurate count of the people who call the streets their home. Based upon numbers and other factors, the county receives federal funding to support programs for the homeless. The aid is welcome but it will not solve the deep causes of homelessness.
Many suffer with mental illness and substance abuse problems. Many become caught up in the criminal justice system and may endure treatment that exacerbates their challenges. The number counted this year is likely to increase from the last time the survey was conducted in 2015. That year, 4,452 people were counted among the county’s homeless population, according to the Orange County Register. The tragedy of such poverty in the midst of so much privilege is truly unsettling. While housing, clothes, food and water can be supplied to the county’s homeless population, these absolutely necessary supplies will not solve the deeper problems. A vital step towards a solution is to address how the justice system responds to suspects who may have mental health issues. Perhaps these people can be steered away from the streets, kept out of jail and given the support and compassion they need.