by Rey Andres
They provide a great contrast to the image of affluence California conjures and highlight and points to a need at concerted action. As of last count, there are more than 12,700 of them – the homeless -in Orange County that “remains in dire need of emergency shelters” according to Santa Ana-based OC Partnership in its report that it hopes will be referenced by nonprofits, politicians and businesses in addressing the issue of chronic homelessness and achieve the 10-year plan of the Commission to End Homelessness. The Commission is composed of public officials, nonprofits and business leaders.
There are only two seasonal emergency shelters that can house, at most, 200 people – at the California National Guard Armories in Santa Ana and Fullerton in addition to the few small ones run by nonprofits that serve a few dozen people around Orange County. These are typically open between December and March.
Mercy House which operates the armories, has not turned anyone away and hopes to have a “year-round emergency shelters that would help the homeless population”. The nonprofit that seeks “to end the cycle of homelessness of those who enter its system of care” tailors its services to meet the specific needs of each individual so he can be moved to a path to lead him to being in housing.
As the homeless population grew in recent years in Anaheim due to various reasons like choice, as a way of life evolving from other events like job loss, lack of family support, serious physical or mental health conditions and difficulties in battling substance abuse, among other reasons, the City of Anaheim continues to wage a battle by developing a responsive scheme under Coming Home Anaheim which focuses on “ shelter options that can provide either permanent housing or year-round shelter coupled with consolidated services like access to mental health, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance and others”.
On any given night in the county composed of 24 cities, the 2013 OC Homeless and Survey Report states that “there were 4,300 homeless people in Orange County, 40 percent of this are unsheltered.” About 20 percent of this marginalized population are chronically homeless and has been homeless four times in the past years of for 12 months.
In its most recent move to pursue its commitment “to protect the safety and dignity of homeless individuals while at the same time ensuring public spaces are preserved for their intended purposes” the city elders of Anaheim had embraced the efforts of a faith-based regional association in a workshop to facilitate collaboration among the City’s faith-based groups to offer a coordinated and comprehensive approach to the problem.
The growth of homeless population in recent years Anaheim has focused on strengthening existing partnership with neighboring agencies, identifying new resources and exploring successful models to implement solutions to connect the homeless with services they are seeking according to Anaheim City Manager Marcie Edwards.
The Cities of Anaheim and Fullerton, for example, had facilitated the provision of the basic necessity by providing the funds to open Fullerton Armory Emergency Shelter which provides the homeless with warm bed, shower, and meals during the winter months. In helping to reduce the impacts to the community and the additional costs associated with a large homeless population, Anaheim continues to work with its regional partners in identifying opportunities for year-round shelter where consolidated services are offered.
The Anaheim Police Department is also pitching in to make life easier for the homeless with the establishment of a Homeless Detail that focuses on their needs and is composed of trained officers and mental and crisis intervention professionals. Beginning this month, the Anaheim Police Department has employed an additional tool through a city ordinance to maintain and preserve public spaces so that they may be used for their intended purposes by all residents, businesses and visitors in the City. The ordinance prohibits the camping or mass accumulation of personal belongings which interferes with the lawful and ordinary uses of public property.
Homeless individuals can access help from many nonprofits and organizations that include: Homeless Resources in Orange County, Orange County Rescue Mission, Orange County’s Homeless Services, Mercy House, O.C. Partnership, Mary’s Kitchen, Casa Teresa, Shelter for the Homeless: a heaven for hope, Precious Life Shelter, New Image Emergency Shelter, Homeless Intervention Shelter and House, Anaheim Interfaith Shelter, Halcyon House, , The Eli Home Shelter Program, Casa Youth Shelter, Coast to Coast Foundation, Orange County Health Care Agency – Adult Mental Health Services, Anaheim Poverty Task Force, Fullerton Homeless Collaborative, Islamic Circle of North America/Relief USA Muslims for Humanity, Calvary Chapel Open Door and Calvary Chapel East Anaheim.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development has made available $16 million for nonprofits to access to fight homelessness.