Empowered By Orange County United Way

Myth #3: People Are Coming from Other Places To Be Homeless in Orange County

Author: Andrae Bailey, Founder & President, Lead Homelessness

I work with communities all over the United States to help them address homelessness. In my work, I often encounter people assuming that those who are homeless in their community are actually from other places. This assumption is usually coupled with the belief that people are being “shipped” there because of a shelter or other service the community has, and they have moved there to access this service. I have encountered this misconception in almost every community I’ve worked with, and it isn’t true. Across the country, research has shown that the majority of people that are homeless in a community are actually from that community.

If we were specifically to look at Orange County, the data shows that people who are experiencing homelessness here have grown up, worked, and lived here prior to becoming homeless. According to data collected from the 2019 Point in Time Count, 73 percent of unsheltered people said that their last permanent address was in Orange County- this means that the majority of the homeless community lived in Orange County before they fell into homelessness.

The PIT Count also looked at other community ties to Orange County and asked if they had a job, family, or had attended school in the county. Once again the majority of people proved that they had deep connections to the community; 72 percent worked or were currently working in Orange County, over half had family in the county, and 52 percent of the homeless community had attended or were currently attending school in Orange County.

These results are consistent with another study that looked at people’s connections to Orange County. According to the UCI Cost Study, 68 percent of people who were surveyed lived in Orange County for ten or more years. The study also found that 90 percent were US-born (which is a higher percentage of US-born than for the general population of Orange County).

The data shows that people who are experiencing homelessness in any given community are most likely from the very same community- when we talk about who is homelessness in Orange County, we’re talking about your neighbors, your coworkers, your students, and your family.