Homeless man collapses, later dies after being taken to a shelter from Anaheim motel
David Doan, one of the last to leave the Baymont Inn & Suites motel in Anaheim on the day a six-month county lease to house mentally ill homeless people expired Aug. 31, had made it clear he and his girlfriend did not want to go to the Courtyard homeless shelter in Santa Ana.
The onetime Navy cook said as much to friends and acquaintances, as well as to advocates who spoke to him that day.
But Doan, 49, didn’t live long enough to give the shelter a try. He died five days later after collapsing while checking in.
Doan is one of several homeless people who have died since leaving the encampments at the Santa Ana River Trail when the county dismantled the ragtag tent city near Angel Stadium in Anaheim in late February.
According to an account from his girlfriend, Nichole “Nikki” Peckham, Doan had complained several times about not feeling well.
He asked to be taken to a hospital as the two were being transported to the Civic Center shelter by staff members of Telecare, a mental health services provider working with homeless people at Baymont under a county contract.
When contacted on Thursday about Doan, county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson said under county policy she could not confirm or deny that he had been a client with the Telecare program.
An ambulance took Doan from the Courtyard to a nearby hospital where he was found to have suffered bleeding on the brain, Peckham told homeless advocate Tim Houchen, one of the last people to see him alive.
Doan lost consciousness at the hospital on the night of Aug. 31 and never recovered, Houchen said.
After the River Trail
Peckham turned down a request from the Register to be interviewed. But she shared details on what happened with Houchen, who said he had gone to Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana just hours before Doan died but was not allowed to see him.
Houchen, who was once homeless at the Civic Center but now runs Hope 4 Restoration outreach from his Anaheim home, recalls watching Doan and Peckham being driven out the front driveway of the Beach Boulevard motel in a black SUV, headed to the Courtyard shelter.
“He wasn’t very happy because they were going to take him to the Courtyard,” said Houchen, who had been working with Doan for about two weeks before his death to help him get Medi-Cal and welfare benefits reinstated, retrieve documents from the military, and apply for benefits at the Social Security office.
In a video shot the day before his eviction from the Baymont, Doan expressed his displeasure with the way he and Peckham had been treated at Baymont and was upset about not being housed after spending more than a decade living along the Santa Ana River.
The video, uploaded by another homeless advocate, R. Joshua Collins, can be viewed on YouTube.
“Out of everybody, I should have been one of the first people to get housing because I’d been there the longest,” says Doan, who claims he had been at the riverbed since 2001.
Doan also says he had suffered a heart attack years ago and had high blood pressure, health issues he previously disclosed publicly in a June 2017 profile in The Orange County Register. Doan told Houchen that he also had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Willingness to help others
Doan said he was born in Ohio but had a rough childhood, bouncing around quite a bit as he grew up, according to Houchen. He attended schools in Orange County, but graduated high school in Riverside County.
He served 10 months in the U.S. Navy, with a general discharge. His criminal record includes multiple infractions and misdemeanors, along with one felony for possession of a controlled substance.
At the riverbed, Doan had a reputation as being handy with tools, even building an outdoor shower. His last paying job was with a truck rental company about a decade ago.
Houchen said Doan told him he had a brother who lived in Foothill Ranch but hadn’t seen him for five years. In tributes on Facebook, friends from the riverbed remembered Doan for his sense of humor and his willingness to help others.
Houchen only met Doan in August, but felt he had the potential to regain stability and return to a gainful life: “I think he had some skills. He just needed the opportunity … I think there was some work in his future.”