A homeless family of four died in their van in the parking lot of a Southern California CVS store, police in Garden Grove, Calif. said Friday (May 16). The adult man, woman, and two small children had been dead for at least three days prior to the gruesome discovery.
“They were in pajamas and sleeping gear and it looks like they were all asleep inside the van,” Whitney said Garden Grove Police Lt. Carl Whitney.
Phunyouphone Kanyavong, 41, has been identified as the adult male. His girlfriend and their their two young children, both of whom were under the age of 2 years old, have not yet been positively identified.
Authorities believe that the family died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. An official cause of death has yet to be determined, and the vehicle was not running when the family was found.
Kanyavong was from Garden Grove and had reportedly been living in the van with his family for a while. He was reluctant to get help from friends and nearby relatives, who were aware of his housing predicament.
“What is tragic about this is we have our special resources teams that have connections to different resources,” Whitney added. “We don’t want these people living in their cars, and especially with small children. We want them to be off the streets for their own safety.”
Police were alerted to the scene on Thursday evening, after a passerby called the cops to report a foul odor coming from the white Honda Odyssey. The windows of the van were covered with blankets and a sunscreen. “She called the police department because she was concerned because she knew the people that sometimes hang out in this van,” Whitney explained.
“It’s sad for the family and bad for the kids,” Dan Walbon, a 64-year-old man who knew the family and had also been homeless until recently, said according to the Orange County Register. “They didn’t have a chance at life.”
Homelessness has been on a steady rise in the U.S. over the last seven years, but the family tragedy sheds more light on California’s growing homeless epidemic, amid rising housing costs.
In 2017, more than half a million people around the country were reported homeless, with most of them residing on the West Coast. Over 100,000 people are homeless in California, which accounts for more than a quarter of the national homeless population.