Why has United Way chosen to take on this initiative?
Housing is a key component of United Way’s 10-year community-wide action plan to end homelessness by achieving functional zero within targeted populations by 2024. When it became apparent that homelessness had grown to crisis proportions in the last couple of years, we had to take the next step. We’ve mobilized our existing and new partners to create our homeless service providers network to work alongside our corporate and philanthropic partners as well as governmental leaders to combat the problem together. As a matter of fact, formalizing a countywide collective impact effort to end homelessness with a shared set of goals and agreed upon respective roles was one of the key recommendations listed in the UCI Cost Study. All agreed that United Way, with 95 years of history convening such efforts, was the ideal organization to spearhead such an effort, and we’re honored to do so.
What exactly is supportive housing, or permanent supportive housing?
This is a homelessness solution which provides housing (project based and scattered site and supportive services) on a long-term basis to formerly chronically homeless people. To qualify for PSH you must be chronically homeless, which means someone has been homeless for a year or longer and a diagnosed disability. The program is based on a “housing first” approach to homelessness.
What is chronic homelessness?
This refers to people who have been continuously homeless for one year or more, or who have experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years, which collectively total at least 12 months, and have a physician-diagnosed disability.
What kinds of disabilities?
It could be a chronic physical illness or disability, a developmental disability, cognitive impairments resulting from brain injury, a mental health diagnosis such as PTSD, or schizophrenia.
Why should this population receive free housing?
The UCI Homelessness Cost Study found that the highest cost savings were had when those who were chronically homeless were placed into supportive housing, it is shown to be almost 50% cheaper to house these people than it is to leave them on the streets. Efforts in other cities like Orlando, Florida have shown it’s also the most effective way to keep them off the streets.
Why do people become homeless?
The UCI Cost Study showed that the top three major factors that cause people to become homeless in Orange County are: 1) securing or retaining jobs with sustainable wages (40 percent); 2) finding or retaining affordable housing (36 percent); and 3) family issues such as domestic violence, family dysfunction and death of a family member (28 percent). In many cases, more than one of those factors is at play (they could select more than one in the study). The challenge is that the longer they stay on the streets, the more likely they are to develop debilitating or disabling conditions or addictions that lead to chronic homelessness. So, it’s imperative that we have a system of care that can get these individuals housed as quickly as possible.
Are people coming from places outside of Orange County to be homeless here?
The UCI Homelessness Cost Study found that people who are without a home in Orange County are mainly local residents – 68 percent have lived here for over 10 years; 90 percent are U.S. citizens; and half are over 50 years of age.
In supportive housing or PSH where do the funds come from to pay rent?
Funds to cover rent are typically covered by a variety of rental assistance vouchers that are provided to our community by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Vouchers (VASH). These vouchers are then issued to the four Housing Authorities here in Orange County: Orange County Housing Authority, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Garden Grove Housing Authorities. United Way will raise private-sector funding to support tenants and landlords participating in the United to End Homelessness scattered site supportive housing program.
Is Supportive Housing like homeless shelters?
No. Individuals would live in private apartments or permanent supportive housing developments while receiving the supportive care they need.
Wouldn’t homeless individuals cause problems for those already living in the community where PSH is proposed?
There is no evidence to suggest that the rate of complaints, evictions or arrests for those living in permanent supportive housing is higher than the rest of the population. As a matter of fact, with the supportive care provided for tenants in supportive housing and the wraparound services available to landlords, landlords and property managers providing supportive housing actually have more resources available to them than they do for addressing issues with other tenants.
Aren’t homeless individuals concentrated in certain parts of the county? Why should someone in South Orange County or Newport Beach care?
No city is immune to homelessness. As long as there are people who have disabling or debilitating conditions and our cost of living remains sky high, homelessness can and will happen anywhere across the county. Please view the County’s 2019 Point-in-Time Count report for more information.
Is there a way for regular citizens to get involved? What can they do?
We want to reach every Orange County citizen, encouraging him or her to step up and help end homelessness. If you like what we’re doing, we ask that you to join our effort, get involved, and follow us on social media! You can also get engaged by contacting your local city leaders and asking them about their plans to increase supportive housing in your community. For more information on our advocacy efforts, check out our Housing Champions webpage.