Crosstown: They were homeless, now they’re dead

By Ethan Ward

On the first day of 2020, the unresponsive body of Corinna Ortega, a Latina woman, was discovered by a friend in a tent in Parnell Park in Whittier. The coroner would rule that Corinna, 22, died of a fentanyl and methamphetamine overdose.

That same day, Sean Austin, a 46-year-old white man, was found dead at 4 a.m. beneath an overpass in Wilmington. He died of an overdose, this time due to methamphetamine and alcohol.

Larry Roberts, a 64-year-old Black man, was also discovered that day, in a car at the intersection of Century Boulevard and Zamora Avenue in Florence-Firestone. Larry died of heart disease.

All three individuals were experiencing homelessness at the time they died, and while each passing was tragic, the Jan. 1 deaths were no outliers, and turned out to be somber predictors of the year to come: A total of 1,383 homeless individuals died in Los Angeles County in 2020, said Sarah Ardalani, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. She noted that the totals are preliminary. READ MORE.