SANTA ANA, CA – In a major milestone for Orange County, one hundred formerly homeless Orange County men and women now have a permanent place to live as well as social and health supportive services thanks to a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These funds are used to support the Orange County Permanent Supportive Housing Collaborative with rental subsidies, intensive case management, and other important housing stabilization services. The goal of housing 100 of the most vulnerable homeless people in the County was accomplished between August 1st of 2015 and March 31st of 2016.
The Collaborative consists of Mercy House, Friendship Shelter, Colette’s Children’s Home, Orangewood Foundation, Share Our Selves (SOS), and Jamboree. The Collaborative members worked with the owners and managers of local apartment properties as well as local housing developer, Community Development Partners, to lease the units that now house the 100 formerly homeless residents.
The HUD funding to establish the Collaborative was awarded in January 2015. This started the process of finding and leasing the apartment units, securing the necessary services, and identifying the homeless individuals to participate in the housing program. The Collaborative was selected through a highly competitive national bidding process conducted by HUD.
Finding and securing appropriate housing took a major coordinated commitment from the Collaborative members. It involved highly skilled teams of outreach workers, health care providers and a network of nonprofits working with landlords. Matches were made between nonprofit housing providers and chronically homeless people who qualified for this type of housing through the County’s new Coordinated Entry System, managed and operated by 2-1-1 Orange County. Coordinated entry processes help communities prioritize assistance based on vulnerability and severity of service needs to ensure that people who need assistance the most can receive it in a timely manner. In order to qualify for permanent supportive housing, as defined by HUD, the person must demonstrate long-term homelessness and have a qualifying disability.
“This is a game-changer. It’s transformative,” said Larry Haynes, Mercy House Executive Director. “We have taken 100 of the most vulnerable homeless people in our region off the streets in just a few short months.”
The process of securing the housing for the 100 formerly homeless people took considerable research and legwork to find the apartments to serve as permanent supportive housing for these clients, Haynes added. “Each of the organizations that is a member of the Collaborative has demonstrated the commitment and ability to successfully work together toward the common goal of moving people from chronic homelessness to stable, permanent housing. Our partnership has accomplished this in what is considered one of the most expensive housing markets in the U.S. We also salute the apartment owners and managers who understood the importance of what we are doing and worked with us to lease these units.”
Housing the first 100 is only the beginning for the Collaborative. In the next few months, their efforts will be focused on completing move-ins for six additional formerly homeless individuals, creating connections to vital medical and health resources provided by SOS and ensuring that the individuals served are able to successfully maintain their new homes.
“I had been living on the streets for over 20 years and was ready to give up. I even thought of taking my own life,” said Mark, who is a permanent supportive housing program participant and is now thriving. “Mercy House luckily stepped in at the perfect time for me. If they had not been there to pick me up, I really don’t know where I would be right now.”
About the Orange County Permanent Supportive Housing Collaborative: The Orange County Permanent Supportive Housing Collaborative’s mission is to address the needs of the most severely vulnerable, chronically homeless individuals in Orange County. Mercy House, as the lead agency, provides housing services in Central/North Orange County along with sub-recipients; Friendship Shelter and Colette’s Children’s Home provide housing services in South and West Orange County, respectively. Share Our Selves is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and designated Healthcare for the Homeless provider. SOS provides clinical, case management and social service resources, in addition to key Medicaid-financed health and behavioral health services for eligible program participants. Orangewood Foundation provides specialized services for homeless, former foster youth ages 18-24 years old. Jamboree serves as a key partner in developing new permanent supportive housing units for the Collaborative to lease.