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. You strike up a conversation, find something in common, and might even say, "Let's get together sometime." 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 either because 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. Maintaining a routine or 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 2017 Point in Time Survey indicated that the number of homeless people in Orange County had risen by 7.6% since 2015, illustrating that this issue is closer to our homes now more than ever. On any given night almost 4,800 homeless people sleep on the streets or in a shelter, and there are several vulnerable populations.
These statistics are staggering given that Orange County is one of the wealthiest in the country, yet homelessness is all around us. Not everyone experiencing homelessness is as obvious as a man sleeping behind a dumpster. Many couch surf with family members or friends, while others sleep in their cars, emergency shelters, or cheap motels. We should acknowledge the homeless in our communities, especially those who may be invisible to the naked eye, and work towards a solution that guarantees everyone a basic standard of life.
Housing the homeless is something that HomeAid Orange County has worked to achieve for 28 years. By partnering with other non-profit organizations to develop and renovate housing, 61 projects have been developed, ranging from emergency shelters to interim housing to permanent supportive housing.
These housing projects have transformed over 60,000 lives.
Join us throughout the rest of November, which is "Homeless Awareness Month," and support the fight to end homelessness:
I also ask that you share with your friends, family, or coworkers our rich digital hub focused on raising awareness:
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 may even choose to get to know.
On the behalf of HomeAid Orange County, I look forward to sharing opportunities on how you can help end homelessness.
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.