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As police seek serial killer, O.C. homeless seek shelter

January 5, 2012 |  5:22 pm

As police continued to search for answers in the serial killings of three homeless men in Orange County, seasonal armories in the area saw a 40% increase in shelter use over the Last two days.

The primary demographic in the emergency shelters, located in Santa Ana and Fullerton, tend to be single males like the ones killed from Dec. 20 to Dec. 30, said Larry Haynes, the executive director of Mercy House, a nonprofit that works with the homeless.

"It's a reasonable assumption to say something is going on," he said.

He said workers are encouraging the homeless to stay with other people and use the buddy system.

"Obviously there's a psychopath out there," he said.

Melinda Steep, the director of the Yorba Linda library where Paulus Smit, 57, was stabbed, said she is still sad and shocked at the news.

"We all knew who he was," she said.

Smit had been frequenting the library "almost daily" for about a year, a rarity for the homeless in the area. She said Smit wasn't technology savvy so he usually enlisted the help of the reference desk. He liked to read newspapers and magazines.

"He was kind," she said, adding that staff members quickly knew who the victim might be when his bike was left outside at the racks.

"It's hard to know that one of our regulars is gone forever," she said.

A miles away, James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was killed Dec. 20. In the same Placentia shopping center is Charity's Closet, a thrift shop that donates proceeds to a local shelter.

Barbara Goff, the founder of the store, said that the area is not a place where she sees homeless people frequently.

She said she had seen McGillivray a handful of times and that volunteers at the thrift shop would sometimes offer him food or a gift card. She said that in the last six years, she had only seen one other homeless person in the area.

"He was happy doing what he was doing," she said.


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--Nicole Santa Cruz in Yorba Linda