The Orange County Alliance for Just Change (OCAJC) is entering its second season of educating people of faith and good will for making change. Last year we had four forums on homelessness, drilling down on what homelessness is, the various types of homelessness in Orange County, the root causes, and some of the organizations that are working hard on long-term solutions to homelessness through affordable, permanent housing, with wraparound supportive services.

I want to share two of the more fascinating things that I learned last year with you. Through our association with Jamboree Housing, I learned what permanent supportive housing can look like. Honestly, it is not what comes to mind when one thinks of housing for the homeless. For example, click here and you can see the Diamond Apartment Homes in Anaheim, where all the residents are previously classified as homeless, diagnosed with chronic mental illness, and have access on site to wraparound supportive services. This is a level of life and dignity that is far different than what typically comes to mind with “housing the homeless.”

The second thing I learned last year was the costs of doing nothing. The United Way of Orange County sponsored a study published in 2017 entitled “Homelessness in Orange County: The Costs to Our Community.” The study was led by OCAJC board member and UCI professor David Snow. Among other things, the Cost Study showed that the median monthly income of homeless persons in OC is $860, not even half of the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment. And, through hospital, police, and social services, the average cost of a person living on the street to the county is $45,000 a year. Those costs can be lowered by 40% by pooling those varied resources and investing in permanent supportive housing. You can read the cost study report here.

As a result of the Cost Study, the United Way OC began an initiative called “United to End Homelessness.” Rather than to continue approaching homelessness in piecemeal fashion, United to End Homelessness is drawing together civic (cities and county), business, and faith communities to coordinate efforts to provide permanent supportive housing. It is a tall order, but there has been remarkable progress and support.

For the 2018/19 year, the OCAJC is partnering with United to End Homelessness, as our Executive Director, Rabbi Marcia Tilchin, and I have become part of the “Faith Leaders Council” for the project. I will try to keep you updated about the way that these efforts are progressing as we go along, but for now I want to ask you to do several things that can make a difference.

1. SAVE THESE DATES on your calendars for the following Sunday events:
September 23 will be date for the kickoff event for the OCAJC’s 2018/19 year. The Kickoff Event will be at 3:00 PM at St. Mark.
November 4, 2018, then January 6, March 3, and May 5, 2019 will be dates for the OCAJC Educational Forums. Each forum begins at 2:30. The locations will be announced closer to the dates.

2. GO TO UNITED TO END HOMELESSNESS WEB SITE, right here. When you get there, scroll down and do two things:
A. SIGN the Proclamation on Homelessness, indicating your commitment to end homelessness. The purpose for signing the proclamation is to demonstrate the will of the community when we go before city councils and county officials with plans and concerns. Numbers matter when it comes to pushing for legislative changes or funding appropriations.
B. TAKE THE SURVEY about Homelessness in OC. It will be educational and, I hope, pique your interest in knowing more.
And while you are there, you might as well read about “Santa Bob,” whose journey has taken him from his experience of homelessness to become a strong advocate for what the United to End Homelessness campaign is trying to accomplish.

It promises to be another fascinating year for the OCAJC, as we continue our commitment for just change. Please do save those dates and plan to be part of our work together.

Mark of St. Mark

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