If you do not see them…you are not looking.
Hey, we are neighbors!
That is a common phrase when you meet someone and learn they live on your street, in your town or even when traveling and you meet someone who is from Orange County. Conversation occurs, you find something in common and might even say “let’s get together sometime” and then you smile, shake hands and say “it was nice to meet you.”
I am going to make a bold statement that will challenge you and might make you uncomfortable. You have a neighbor that you would not have the same exchange with because either you do not see them or worse yet, you ignore them.
Who is that invisible neighbor?
The person on your street or in your town who is homeless…the person without a home.
Shelter is a basic human need. Lack of shelter means lack of sleep, lack of hygiene, no kitchen, no storage space, and no safety. Holding onto a routine or a level of normalcy is near impossible without a place to call home. Luckily, most of us never have to worry about shelter—but not everyone can say the same. Continually rising rent prices in Orange County have put housing out of reach for thousands, leaving people deprived of a basic human need.
The results of the 2015 Point in Time Survey showed that the number of homeless in Orange County had risen by 5% since 2013 indicating that this issue is closer to our homes than ever. On any given night almost 4,500 homeless people sleep out on the streets or in a shelter, adding up to a total of 15,000 throughout the year. Twelve percent of those people are homeless veterans, thirteen percent suffer from mental illness, and almost 61 percent in shelters are households with children.
These statistics are staggering given that our county is one of the wealthiest in the country and possibly even more shocking because we don’t often see the homeless day to day. But not all homeless people are as obvious as a man sleeping behind a dumpster. Many couch surf with family members or friends, some sleep in their cars, emergency shelters, or cheap motels. Being homeless makes it difficult to find or hold a job, to stay clean and healthy, and places severe burdens on families. We should acknowledge the homeless in our communities, especially those who may be invisible to the naked eye, and work towards a solution which guarantees everyone a basic standard of life.
Housing the homeless is something that HomeAid Orange County has worked to achieve for twenty-seven years. HomeAid partners with other non-profit organizations to develop and renovate housing projects throughout Orange County and has successfully developed 57 building and renovating housing projects, providing facilities that range from emergency shelters, to interim housing, to permanent supportive housing. These projects have successfully transformed over 55,000 lives.
Join us throughout the rest of November “Homeless Awareness Month” and support the fight to end homelessness. Each day you will learn something new directly from guest bloggers who are leaders in Orange County addressing this critical issue. As you do, I ask that you share with your friends, family or coworkers AreYouAware.org. Perform an action, whether big or small, that will leave behind a lasting impact in the life of one of your neighbors. A neighbor who once was invisible but now you see…and even might choose to get to know.
Being homeless makes it difficult to find or hold a job, to stay clean and healthy, and places severe burdens on families.
Sign-up to volunteer at the cold weather armory shelter to serve individuals or families experiencing homelessness and spread the word this month to your friends and family.