Particularly around the holidays, there is no shortage of worthwhile causes attracting people of all ages who are eager to work collaboratively toward a common goal, while finding personal fulfillment and satisfaction. Providing assistance to the homeless, however, is not typically amongst the most popular of them. Undeniably, there’s nothing glamorous about it. In fact, confronting homelessness can feel downright scary. Many of us are afraid to even imagine ourselves in a situation where our mental or physical health has failed us, or our financial resources and employment options have run dry.
For those fortunate enough to have a caring family member to count on in times of trouble, the heaviness of homelessness may set in only temporarily before visions of a safety net catch negative thoughts and point them in a positive direction. But for those with no one to turn to when one of life’s vital cornerstones gives way, a sudden illness, accident, or unexpected layoff has the potential to shake the foundation of even the most sensible and well-prepared among us.
The abyss of the unthinkable was once saved for stereotypes: the drug abusers, alcoholics, and mentally ill. In a way, those stereotypes provided some level of comfort, assuring many of us that as long as we played by the rules we could count on the predictability of our daily lives. But the rules have changed and the face of homelessness has taken on an unsettling and all too familiar appearance. Heroic veterans of war, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who have worked in earnest all their lives are suddenly finding themselves facing the stark reality of homelessness.
Particularly here in Orange County, where the affluence is palpable, the stigma of homelessness often carries the additional and unbearable weight of guilt and shame, driving those who need help and support the most into a downward spiral of depression and hopelessness. It isn’t hard to understand. With escalating living costs, Southern Californians must keep pace in a region that consistently ranks among the nation’s top ten costliest places to live, or leave it behind. It’s an ultimatum that’s becoming a stark reality for more and more residents who face rising rents and home prices. Today, the median price for a single-family home is at a record high of $799,000, according to the California Association of Realtors. Only 21% of Orange County households can afford to buy a home at the median price.
Rather than viewing human frailty and our failures as opportunities for personal growth, we are apt to turn away from this “irrational” fear as a way to insulate our thoughts, which ultimately prevents us from being part of the solution. But that’s precisely how American Family Housing (AFH) is combating homelessness: by imagining what was previously not thought possible.
With a “housing first” approach, AFH is not only offering unconditional support and a second chance for families and individuals, but we are also pioneering new and innovative housing alternatives in Southern California, as well as cities across America. In addition to operating 63 housing sites and serving more than 1,300 adults and children each year, AFH broke ground in June 2016 on a first-of-its-kind multifamily housing project called Potter’s Lane located in Midway City, California. The beautifully engineered housing site utilizes recycled steel shipping containers, transforming them into energy-efficient and sustainable dwellings amidst a tranquil setting. Quickly gaining national recognition, Potter’s Lane is fulfilling one of the community's greatest needs by providing permanent housing for chronically homeless veterans, while simultaneously serving as a replicable, scalable, and environmentally responsible model for ending homelessness throughout the United States.
As we move forward and as another holiday season approaches, AFH invites you to join us in our commitment to end homelessness in Orange County. By creating a safety net that provides the most vulnerable with a soft place to land and a second chance for a better life, together we can become that caring and supportive family everyone so richly deserves.
Help someone have a soft place to land and give them a second chance by volunteering or donating to American Family Housing. To learn more about ways you can give, visit www.afhusa.org or call (714) 897-3221.
HomeAid has been ending homelessness with American Family Housing since 1994 through the development of one home, adding 32 beds for homeless families and individuals. American Family Housing programs are also recipients of HomeAid Essentials donations and other HomeAid Community Outreach activities.