HomeAid Orange County

​3 Reasons Why Housing is the Ultimate Need

by Larry Haynes, Executive Director of Mercy House

November 29, 2017

In less than 500 words, I have been challenged to talk about one of my favorite things: Housing!

I have three things to say about housing. First off, when it comes to ending homelessness, and yes I really do believe that we can and will end homelessness in Orange County, there is nothing more important than housing. Nothing. Obviously, someone who moves into permanent housing has ended their homelessness, and this is the goal. But, I am saying something more here, something a little more subversive. It is not that I am denying the value of shelter, programs, and a variety of services. What I am suggesting, is that in comparison to housing, those things pale in importance toward the goal of ending homelessness.

I am not doing this well; I am not making my point clearly enough. Let me try again: When it comes to ending homelessness, services and programs are of little value if they are disconnected from housing.

But, some will say that we don’t simply want to get people off the streets, we want to see human beings healed and whole. We don’t want people to merely exist, we want them to live, to overcome and have full lives. I agree. And toward this end I make my second statement about housing: Housing is the first step, the prerequisite toward a full and human life, not a reward after being “fixed” by our programs. Common examples of things that need “fixing” are employment and sobriety. But, think about it. Is one more likely to attain employment operating from a home, or getting dressed from behind a bush? You want sobriety? Give someone something to live for, not endless pain and hopelessness, maybe then they will have a fighting chance. Housing itself can do the fixing. Housing works.

Finally, housing needs to be for all. Everyone. Seriously, everyone, even for those that don’t seem to “deserve” it. Why? I could make a moral argument, but I won’t. I gave up on moral arguments years ago as they were wildly ineffective. Let me try something else: self-interest. Forget appeals of compassion and humanitarianism, the reason we should provide housing for the homeless is that it saves us money. Study after study after study has shown that it actually costs us more to walk by and ignore people living on the streets than to house them for free for the rest of their lives. Homelessness is expensive, and allowing it to continue is counter to our own interests.

There is no credible response to homelessness that does not include housing. The good news is that housing works so well, that through it, we can end homelessness in Orange County once and for all. If I haven’t persuaded you to be good, then let me implore you to be selfish. Let’s do this Orange County! Let’s end homelessness together….for whatever reason!

Just under 500 words….Nice.


Take action today and sign-up to volunteer at the Cold Weather Emergency Shelters that provide beds for individuals and families experiencing homelessness that are opening on December 5th. Learn more at http://mercyhouse.net/volunteer/individuals/.


HomeAid Orange County has been ending homelessness with Mercy House since 1994 by developing six homes and adding 71 beds for homeless families and individuals. Mercy House programs are also recipients of the HomeAid Essentials campaign and other HomeAid Community Outreach activities.