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Homeless Deaths in Costa Mesa Could Be Due to Cold Temps

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Two homeless people were found dead in Costa Mesa Tuesday, and the cold weather may have played a factor in their deaths.The body of Robert Collins, thought to be in his 50s, was found about 2:30 a.m. in the 400 block of West 19th Street, Costa Mesa police Lt. Bryan Glass said, reports City News Service. The Daily Pilot identifies the second person as Rita Stehnach, also in her 50s. The deaths appear to be unrelated, and there were no signs of foul play, say authorities.

Collins was reportedly considered "a bit of a character" in Costa Mesa, and had been residing in the area for the past 10 years. Becks Heyhoe of the Churches Consortium, a homeless outreach program, said both had health issues that could have caused their deaths.

Glass notes that the "extreme weather conditions" could also be reason for their deaths. Nothing will be known for certain until autopsies are completed.

In the meantime, Costa Mesa is making a controversial choice to foot the bill for those considered "most in need" to stay the night in motels. Assistant City CEO Rick Francis said authorities were also making an effort to check areas frequented regularly by the local homeless population to check in on their well-being during the cold snap.

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"From my perspective, what matters is we've got people dying," Francis said. "If it's weather-related, how do we respond to that?" reports the Daily Pilot.

In neighboring Los Angeles, a transient was found dead on a city sidewalk early Monday morning following a night of low temperatures.