TimesOC: Housing for the homeless in Orange County amidst a pandemic

A homeless man sleeps on a city bench on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa.
A homeless man sleeps on a city bench on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa on Tuesday. Orange County applied for funding from Project Homekey, which would allow the county to convert three motels to permanent housing for the homeless.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Good afternoon, and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 19.

My name is David Carrillo Peñaloza, the author of the TimesOC newsletter and an editor for Los Angeles Times Community News. You can call me DCP for short.

Homelessness is a big issue in Orange County, even more so during these difficult times. There’s COVID-19 and the scorching heat to deal with.

With officials and medical experts telling people to stay at home as much as possible during the coronavirus pandemic, where do those who don’t have a place to shelter go? Sidewalks. Under freeways. Parks. Trails. Behind businesses.

Those lucky enough have a homeless shelter, motel or hotel room to call home each night. It looks as though some help is on the way to house the homeless in Orange County.

Reporter Lilly Nguyen wrote about California’s Project Homekey, which provides $600 million in grant funding to cities and counties, allowing them to buy and rehabilitate hotels, motels and vacant apartment buildings to convert into long-term housing. Orange County has requested $60.6 million from the project to convert three motels into permanent housing for the homeless.

As for the locations of the three motels in the county, officials didn’t disclose that information because the state hasn’t approved the applications. The motels up for consideration could potentially house 152 homeless people. That isn’t much housing for a county that had 6,860 homeless people in 2019, according to an Orange County United Way report.

An answer could come this month or in September. The sooner the better for those in need of a place to live. COVID-19 isn’t disappearing anytime soon.

A kid holds a basketball in front of a mural painted in honor of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.
A kid holds a basketball in front of a mural painted in honor of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, on the side of El Toro Bravo Tortilleria in Costa Mesa on Jan. 31.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Kobe Bryant Day in O.C. is Monday

Kobe Bryant wore No. 8 and No. 24 during his illustrious career with the Lakers, and those two numbers match the month and day Orange County plans to honor the late basketball icon.

As reporter Matt Szabo recently wrote, Orange County has declared Aug. 24 as Kobe Bryant Day. Bryant, a Newport Coast resident who died on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash with eight others in Calabasas, would have turned 42 on Sunday.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times at

I sometimes wonder what Bryant would’ve have thought about the NBA returning to action during the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, basketball meant a lot to Bryant, but is playing the sport, or any sport for that matter, worth the risk of getting COVID-19 and losing your life over it?

One thing is for sure, Bryant wouldn’t have been happy with the Lakers dropping Tuesday’s first-round game of the Western Conference playoffs to the Portland Trail Blazers. Can the top seed lose to a No. 8 seed? I remember seeing that happen for the first time, back in 1994, when the No. 8 Denver Nuggets upset the No. 1 Seattle SuperSonics.

While the Lakers are honoring Bryant, under the “Leave a legacy” motto, in the postseason, we will pay tribute to Bryant on Monday. We’re asking Orange County residents and basketball fans to email us what Bryant meant to you. Email me your thoughts and favorite memories of Bryant at by noon Friday. Include your first and last name, the city you live in, age, and a phone number to reach you at, in case we have any questions.

U.S. Postal Service issues

Reporter Hillary Davis has the latest on how changes to the U.S. Postal Service is affecting mail in Orange County and possibly the delivery of mail-in ballots this fall.

Davis wrote that Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) believes the removal of blue curbside outgoing boxes and elimination of overtime are a plan to suppress the vote in November that could unseat President Trump.

“No, you don’t have to take my word for it. Take the president’s word for it, one of the few times you can,” Rouda said Tuesday at a rally outside of a Costa Mesa post office. “He actually said it. He admitted that the reason that these changes were being made was to cut down on the ability for mail-in voting.”

If you’ve experienced any mail issues, The Times wants to hear from you.

Siblings Wedad, 25, left, Lamees, 26, center, and Sammy Alhassen, 23, pose for a photo in a UC Irvine laboratory on Thursday.
Siblings Wedad, 25, left, Lamees, 26, center, and Sammy Alhassen, 23, pose for a photo in a UC Irvine laboratory on Thursday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Alhassen trio does everything together at and away from UC Irvine

Imagine going to the same middle school, high school and college with two of your siblings, then studying, working and living together during these three stages of your life? That’s the case for Lamees, 26, Wedad, 25, and Sammy Alhassen, 23, who are pursuing their doctorate in pharmacology at UC Irvine.

Reporter Lilly Nguyen featured the trio, who can’t seem to avoid talking shop at home or each other during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Want to experience the newspaper with a digital subscription?

You can now view the actual Los Angeles Times Community News publications online with our Daily Pilot and TimesOC e-newspapers. Here’s Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Pilot and Sunday’s edition of TimesOC. Hopefully this gives you the same feel as reading the newspaper in your hands.

COVID-19 fear impacts Alzheimer’s research

The number of volunteers for clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease has dwindled, and experts believe it’s due to the coronavirus pandemic causing fear. Reporter Ben Brazil talked with John Dwyer, the president of the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation, and Dwyer said Alzheimer’s volunteers are typically older and they’re more vulnerable to getting the coronavirus and dying from it.

Get in touch

Have any questions or suggestions for the TimesOC newsletter? Email me at If you want to sign up for the newsletter that is delivered to your inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, visit You can also follow me on Twitter @ByDCP and tweet me questions.

See you Friday afternoon.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.