Commission Joins Ambitious Countywide Effort to Address Homelessness, Responds to Current Demands Fueled by Economic Downturn
Irvine, Calif., October 6, 2010 — The Children and Families Commission of Orange County today approved a series of ambitious, far-reaching measures that will expand and strengthen services and programs for homeless children and their families. The measures range from providing major funding for emergency shelters and transitional facilities for homeless families, to supporting long-range programs that will play a key role in ultimately eliminating homelessness countywide.
The Commission’s actions came just one week after the Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the “Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness,” a countywide program that seeks to eradicate homelessness by 2020. The unprecedented effort closely aligns with the Commission’s multi-faceted, years-long support of programs and services that aid homeless children and their families. One of the Commission’s key actions today was to provide the funding match to allow for the immediate launch of the 10-Year effort while additional funding is secured. The plan will marshal the resources of county agencies, city governments, private foundations, advocacy groups, community organizations and other stakeholders committed to ending homelessness.
“The Children and Families Commission today took a major step in the fight to end homelessness in Orange County,” said Chairman and Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell. “Since it was formed a decade ago, the Commission has provided millions of dollars to help fund a diverse range of programs and services that provide immediate assistance to Orange County’s homeless, including emergency shelters such as Mercy House, and transitional shelters such as those provided through HomeAid.
“While today’s actions by the Commission continue this critical countywide support, we also recognize children learn better when they have a stable home. Housing goes beyond having a roof over your head. We are devoted to giving homeless parents the tools and resources needed to create a safe environment for their children so they are healthy and ready to learn.”
The Commission allocated more than $1.6 million to non-profit shelters and other organizations that assist the homeless — which is especially critical in the current bleak economy. Orange County is not immune to the current economic conditions and the terrible toll they are taking on many families with young children. Indeed, higher poverty rates have contributed to an increased number of homeless families with young children; in 2008, 14 percent of Orange County children from birth through age 5 were living below the poverty level. Young children who are homeless or living in unstable housing situations due to economic hardship face significant obstacles to healthy growth and development. Homeless children are more likely to have significantly poorer nutrition, emotional and physical health, and academic achievement compared to other low income children who are stably housed.
In today’s actions, the Commission:
Renewed its significant financial support for county transitional shelters that provide temporary housing to homeless children and their families. The Commission works closely in this effort with HomeAid Orange County, a major provider of temporary shelters that was founded in 1989 by the Orange County chapter of the Building Industry Association of Southern California. The Commission provides funding for support services, new construction and rehabilitation of existing structures. Together with HomeAid, the Commission has supported the development of 379 additional beds for the homeless throughout the county.
“The Children and Family Commission’s major investment in transitional shelter developments is helping now, and in the future will continue to help thousands of homeless families rebuild their lives and become independent and self-sufficient,” said Scott Larson, executive director of HomeAid Orange County.
Renewed its support of emergency shelter services. The Commission partners with Mercy House, which operates the county’s Cold Weather Armory in downtown Santa Ana and Fullerton. While providing emergency shelter, Mercy House also seeks to help the homeless families find permanent shelter through its transitional housing programs.
“At Mercy House, our mission is to help families overcome the heartbreaking cycle of homelessness, plain and simple,” Executive Director Larry Haines said. “We do so through a proven system of dignified housing alternatives and services, and the Commission’s continued support and partnership is helping us to reach out to many children and their families and put them on a path toward self-sufficiency and security.
Approved additional “catalytic investments” – long-term support and funding for a comprehensive range of programs and services aimed at creating a sustainable increase in the capacity of Orange County’s system for serving its homeless population. For example, the Commission approved funding for Laura’s House, a domestic-violence shelter in San Clemente that provides countywide emergency shelter and services for battered women and their children; the Commission’s support will be used to help finance a major expansion that will nearly double Laura’s House capacity. The Commission also approved funding for a “mobile clinic” that will visit schools and provide medical services to homeless children and those at risk of becoming homeless. The Commission’s action is in response to a request from the Orange County Rescue Mission and the Hurtt Family Health Clinic, which the Mission operates at its Village of Hope facilities at the former Marine base in Tustin.
“Eliminating the barriers, such as homelessness, to closing the achievement gap in Orange County is not an option; it’s an absolute necessity,” said Commission Executive Director Michael Ruane. “Through mobile clinics, transitional housing and other measures, all of us are thinking outside the box to come up with creative long-term solutions, while more fully serving the immediate needs of homeless children and families.”
About the Children and Families Commission of OrangeCounty
The Children and Families Commission of Orange County oversees the allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. Funds help pay for education, health care and child development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age five and their families. The Commission’s goal is to ensure all children are healthy and ready to learn when they enter school. For more information, please visit www.first5oc.org.