As many of you know, I have gotten involved with several attempts to address the homelessness challenge in Orange County during the last several years. Initially, we started the Orange County Alliance for Just Change (OCAJC), with the hope of working to identify and address systemic roots of injustice. Early on we decided to make homelessness our focus and brought Professor David Snow on board, who had just led a team that produced a groundbreaking study called
Homelessness in Orange County: The Costs to Our Community
. Dr. Snow’s team had been commissioned by the United Way of Orange County and has demonstrated that the costs of “doing nothing” are higher than it would be for the county to house homeless persons, in order to provide wraparound services for those who need them.
About that same time that OCAJC was getting started by offering educational forums about the root causes of homelessness, the United Way was creating a new program in response to Dr. Snow’s study called United to End Homelessness (U2EH). Basing its structure on a model from Orlando, FL, U2EH formed a Leadership Council made up of persons at various levels of government, service providers, business leaders, and educators. And, after a time, they formed a Faith Leaders Council, on which they invited me to serve. I was asked to moderate the Faith Leaders Council in our second meeting, and as a result I was asked to represent the Faith Leaders as part of the Leadership Council. Subsequently, I was asked to be on the Executive Committee of the Leadership Council. Please understand, I’m not bragging about my resume – this is more of a testimony of my inability to say ‘no’ than anything else. And despite my reluctance to add more layers of meetings to my life, I wanted to take advantage of these invitations in order to represent St. Mark, OCAJC, as well as other faith communities in this coordinated effort.
And it has been an incredible experience so far. Let me share some highlights.
- U2EH has the goal of seeing
2,700 new units of Permanent Supportive Housing
(PSH) in Orange County by 2025. For a great definition of and look at PSH, check out this page by Jamboree Housing
- U2EH began offering
workshops that provide one of the best overviews of homelessness and responses to homelessness anywhere.
- U2EH, in cooperation with OCAJC, has just initiated a new
Housing Champions training called Advocacy 101
. The first training took place this week in Mission Viejo. The next two training dates are December 4 at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton and December 5 at the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove. For more information and to register, click
- U2EH began a program called
Welcome Home OC
, which works with apartment owners to provide “scattered site” PSH, which do not need approval by city councils, but do require initial costs to incentivize apartment owners to participate.
- Thanks to the leadership of Cottie Petrie-Norris, U2EH received a $2.9 million dollar grant from the State of CA to address
through the “Welcome Home OC” program. The outreach to veterans is called “Marching Home.”
- U2EH worked with the Santa Ana Housing Authority (SAHA) in August to provide
30 units in 30 days
, in order to take advantage of 30 housing vouchers that SAHA needed to use, in order to qualify for potentially 300 more voucher. St. Mark was a huge part of that effort. U2EH needed to raise $500,000 of initial costs to house the 30 families, and St. Mark responded with over $115,0000, funding 7 of the 30 units.
And now, a new opportunity is at hand. The federal office of HUD has awarded 12 communities grants to house
18-24 year olds who have “aged out” of the Foster Care System
. U2EH is working with The Orangewood Foundation and SAHA to house 25 former foster youth. The initial costs are over $12,000 each. U2EH has already secured funding to house 7 former foster youth through our WelcomeHomeOC Program and are working to raise $228,060 by December 31, 2019 to help to house the other 18. The St. Mark Mission Commission has already put some funding toward it, and you are welcomed to participate in addition. For more information and to make a contribution, visit U2EH’s GoFundMe page
Well, that’s enough for now. St. Mark has long been a leader in striving for economic justice in Orange County and I think the work of OCAJC, U2EH, and related organizations is an extension of what God has been calling us to do throughout our church’s 50+ years. It is a blessing to be a part of it.
Mark of St. Mark