Orange County Innovation Leads in Fighting Homelessness

By May 27, 2021May 28th, 2021No Comments

The United to End Homelessness (U2EH) initiative, empowered by Orange County United Way, is an innovative and powerful collaboration between Orange County’s top business, philanthropic, governmental, faith-based and non-profit leaders. This partnership was founded in order to lead data-driven solutions to the homelessness crisis in Orange County. The work is based upon a clear foundational understanding of our homeless population along with an accurate assessment of the public costs.

A detailed Cost Study sponsored by Orange County United Way, Jamboree Housing and UCI showed that 68% of our homeless neighbors are 10+ year OC residents who lost their homes through job loss, health or other economic situations and became trapped in a cycle. Further, Orange County was spending $300 million each year on related public services and the study was key in identifying gaps in existing services, which served to guide the U2EH blueprint.

According to United Way President & CEO Sue Parks, the focus of U2EH is to create more long-term supportive housing for those most in need. The Cost Study determined Orange County could save $42 million per year by housing its most vulnerable.

In searching for best practices across the country, U2EH realized our community needed a vibrant landlord incentive program while escalating advocacy for more permanent supportive housing to be built. The resulting landlord incentive program, called WelcomeHomeOC, focuses on utilizing existing rental property units. In just a little over two years, WelcomeHomeOC has ended homelessness for over 430 individuals.

There are three key components to WelcomeHomeOC: 1) partnership and coordination with the four public housing agencies; 2) working with public and private owners of available housing unit inventory; and 3) private and public funding to provide first and last-month rent, moving costs plus ongoing case management. To date, over 90% of individuals have stayed housed with no evictions. WelcomeHomeOC has been touted by HUD as a national best practice for ending homelessness.

What makes the U2EH program different and sustainable? U2EH Leadership Council Chair Lawrence Armstrong explained that by recruiting community leaders and having all of the relevant stakeholders together at the table, U2EH was able to identify and fill in existing gaps in service while avoiding duplication of efforts. Furthermore, its viable, effective strategy enabled clear and concise communication to attract charitable contributions, while its success means Orange County will receive an increase in federal vouchers to assist more of our neighbors in need.

WelcomeHomeOC is exceedingly cost-efficient, facilitating an end to homelessness, placement in permanent supportive housing and ongoing case management for just $26,000 per household. While temporary shelters are a critical component of our care system, as is development of new permanent supportive housing, WelcomeHomeOC can house a homeless individual within just two months. Armstrong said this U2EH program offers some of the most attractive incentives in all of the U.S. for property owners and is endorsed by housing industry groups including the Apartment Association of Orange County and the California Apartment Association.

If you are or know rental property owners in Orange County, please reach out to Kristine Peters, [email protected].

Because so many myths and misinformation persist about homelessness, Parks said U2EH is encouraging OC residents to learn more about the true causes and solutions to our homelessness crisis by attending Homelessness 101, one of a series of virtual educational sessions offered monthly by U2EH. To learn more and register for one of these sessions, click here:

Kathya Torrejon

Author Kathya Torrejon

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