Community Leaders Shine a Light on ‘The State of Veteran Homelessness in Orange County’
- In the previous 12 months, 178 OC veterans have been housed in permanent, stable housing
- Orange County has the fourth largest veteran population in the state and experienced a 12% increase in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the past 12 months
- Held during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, elected officials and local experts offered insight into the continued progress and challenges in addressing veteran homelessness.
Orange County, Calif. (November 8, 2023) – United to End Homelessness, one of Orange County United Way’s three key initiatives, hosted an event to discuss “The State of Veteran Homelessness in Orange County.” The event, which was held during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, was attended by nearly 100 elected officials, community leaders and veterans to discuss the successes, challenges and priorities in ending veteran homelessness in the county.
“Homelessness among veterans is an issue that requires concerted, coordinated effort, which is why we brought together so many stakeholders to discuss the work that has been done as well as the work ahead,” said Susan B. Parks, president and CEO, Orange County United Way. “We know there is no easy or quick fix, but together we can collaborate on the work to be done to house our veterans.”
The event included recognition of two elected officials who have championed funding and support of homelessness efforts in Orange County: Tom Umberg, State Senator, 34th District; and Cottie Petrie-Norris, State Assemblymember, 73rd District. Additionally, a panel of local veteran affairs and homelessness experts representing the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, County of Orange’s Office of Care Coordination and Continuum of Care Board, and Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative, discussed the successes and challenges they see in their fields, and priorities heading into 2024.
“Supporting veterans should be a top priority for us all and ensuring they have the resources needed to have a safe and stable place to call home is paramount,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine). “I’m proud to have secured $2.9 million in state budget funding for WelcomeHomeOC to have housed nearly 200 veteran households experiencing homelessness, including the ability to transform the lives of the brave men and women who have served our country.”
In total, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in Orange County in 2023 was 525, as compared to last year being at 537. The data shows that 70% are between the ages of 25 to 61 years of age and 57% have been homeless less than one year. Further, 78% have a disabling condition and 54% have a mental health disability.
“The need is great for our Orange County community to help solve the housing emergency for veterans experiencing homelessness,” said Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana). “I am proud to have secured $4.9 million in state funding to increase the positive momentum behind proven programs like WelcomeHomeOC, so that together we can put these funds into action and help provide housing for all Orange County veterans.”
The panel highlighted several areas of progress made over the past year including dedicated and coordinated outreach amongst agencies supporting veterans, increased VA staffing for nursing and occupational therapists who can help keep veterans mobile and in their own housing for as long as possible, and expedited access to temporary or permanent supportive housing for veterans. Challenges discussed include a growing and aging veteran population, transportation, locating landlords to offer units at fair market rent, and preventing veterans from falling into homelessness in the first place due to inflation and financial pressures.
With a focus on targeted outreach through Orange County’s Continuum of Care Veterans Committee, there has been a priority towards veteran populations including individuals over the age of 62, those homeless for more than ten years, and those with minor children. Since the group was formed in July 2023, progress made includes 57% of veterans aged 62+, 54% of those who have been homeless more than 10 years, and 32% with minor children all moving off the streets into temporary or permanent accommodations.
“Saying ‘Thank you for your service’ simply isn’t enough when there are still veterans who remain homeless in Orange County,” said Becks Heyhoe, Executive Director of United to End Homelessness, Orange County United Way. “Programs like WelcomeHomeOC aim to literally open doors for these veterans, by providing financial incentives to landlords which can make the difference between securing a home and remaining on the street. We will work in tandem with the targeted outreach efforts of the Continuum of Care Veterans Committee and partner agencies and do our part in ensuring that veterans in our community find a place to call home.”
Heyhoe added, “We are grateful for the continued support and constructive conversations with so many community partners so that together, we can end veteran homelessness.”
For more information about United to End Homelessness, visit UnitedtoEndHomelessness.org.
ABOUT UNITED TO END HOMELESSNESS
Launched in February 2018, United to End Homelessness is led by a diverse group of leaders from Orange County’s top business, philanthropic, governmental, faith-based and nonprofit organizations – all committed to ending homelessness in our community. Our work is grounded in bringing the recommendations of the 2017 UC Irvine study “Homelessness in Orange County: The Costs to Our Community” to life, with Orange County United Way serving as the backbone of this new collaborative effort. Together we are working to bring the issue of homelessness to the forefront of the community’s collective discussion and create civic engagement that will lead to meaningful and lasting results. Together we can and we will #EndHomelessnessOC. For more information, please visit UnitedtoEndHomelessness.org.
ABOUT ORANGE COUNTY UNITED WAY
Orange County United Way is committed to breaking barriers and improving lives for everyone who lives here. Through our key initiatives—United for Student Success℠, United for Financial Security℠, and United to End Homelessness℠—we are working to ensure local students succeed, struggling OC families gain financial security, and our homeless neighbors find a place to call home. We also offer vital support via 2-1-1 Orange County (211OC), a key service that connects thousands of our most vulnerable residents with health and human service resources. We are committed to caring for one another. That’s #TheOCWay.
To learn more or discover how you can help, visit UnitedWayOC.org.
Orange County United Way is a standalone, independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
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Media Contact: Heidi Pallares, firstname.lastname@example.org, (949) 285-7278