Empowered By Orange County United Way

Common Misconceptions About Homelessness in Orange County (And How to Address Them)

It is a common misconception that homeless individuals in Orange County are not actually from the county itself, but are strangers that traveled here to live on the streets of OC. Yet that is disproved by the data in both the 2017 UCI Cost Study as well as the 2019 Point in Time (PIT) count; the majority of our homeless community have long term ties to Orange County.

  • The cost study showed that 68% of those who were homeless had been in Orange County for 10 years or longer.
  • The 2019 Point-In Time count showed that 73% of the unsheltered’s populations last permanent address was here in Orange County.
  • The PIT count also shows that 52% have family in Orange County, and 52% have attended or are currently attending school here

Of those who are living outside on our streets:

  • 202 of them reported that they used to live in the South Service Planning Area, an area which includes cities like Irvine and Laguna Beach.
  • 663 individuals reported their last permanent address to be in the North Service Planning Area, which includes cities like Fullerton and La Habra.
  • 682 individuals reported their last addresses to be in the Central Service Planning Area, which includes cities like Newport Beach and Santa Ana. (See Table Below for a complete list of cities in all of the Service Planning Areas).

Another misconception commonly attributed to homeless individuals is that everyone is unemployed or not interested in finding work.. Some even believe that homeless individuals have never held a job in their lives. The data doesn’t match these beliefs.

The PIT count shows that:

  • 72.08% had once held a job in Orange County
  • 22% are currently employed
  • 18% are retired and/or disabled

The data from both  2017 cost study reveals the two most significant causes of homelessness. The first is securing or retaining a job with sustainable wages and the second is finding or retaining affordable housing. Out of 252 homeless respondents included in the 2017 cost study, 40% said that they were homeless because they could not find a job that paid a living wage. Another 36% of those respondents said that they were homeless because they could not find affordable housing or were dealing with foreclosures or  evictions.

This indicates that there are serious difficulties in Orange County with respect to finding a job that pays a living wage while also paying the rent. Despite 72.08% of homeless individuals at one point having a job, they ended up unsheltered and on the street in Orange County where the average cost of rent for an apartment in 2019 is $2175, that does not seem too outrageous a need.

Housing Solutions

The cost study published in June of 2017 entitled, Homelessness in Orange County: The Costs to Our Community, was one of the most comprehensive studies on homelessness ever done in the United States. It analyzed the public costs of homelessness in Orange County and collected data from a wide variety of sources including the County of Orange, the municipalities within the county, hospitals in the county, non-governmental agencies addressing homelessness, and homeless individuals themselves.

The study found that we could have significant cost savings, estimated at $42m a year through providing long term solutions for homelessness that have been proven throughout the country. It is important that we address homelessness for those who are currently living on our streets, not just because it is the fiscally responsible thing to do, but also because these individuals and adults used to be our neighbors, our co-workers, and our family members.

Organizations like United to End Homelessness see this need and urge community members and property owners to come together and participate in the solutions which could satisfy these housing requirements. If this issue interests you as a community member or property owner, please click here to find out more about what you can do to  an end to homelessness in Orange County.