Leaders of Orange County’s top corporate, philanthropic, government and faith-based organizations gathered in February to officially announce United to End Homelessness. The initiative boasts a coalition of nonprofit and private interests joining to create solutions for a pressing problem: growing homelessness in a county with some of the country’s wealthiest cities.
The 250-plus invited guests at University of California-Irvine’s Barclay Theatre greeted the announcement with loud applause.
The concept is straightforward: OC abounds with forward-thinking people who develop solutions on a daily basis in their roles as executives, managers and employees. Why not tap into that wealth of talent to tackle one of the largest issues?
The seed was recently planted in cities such as Orlando, Fla. and San Antonio—and led here to the creation of United to End Homelessness last year, propelled by a study of the financial costs of homelessness to the Orange County community. The study was commissioned by nonprofit organizations Orange County United Way and Jamboree Housing Corp. in Irvine, and UCI, with the support of the Association of California Cities and the Hospital Association of Southern California.
The study, according to Orange County United Way Chief Executive Sue Parks, is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the U.S. It showed that nearly $300 million in taxpayer and non-governmental agency money was spent in the 2014-15 fiscal year to address homelessness here.
Parks said the idea of a “collaborative solution” to homelessness sprouted in July of last year, when United Way executives began bouncing the idea around in a series of meetings. By the fall, they’d decided to pursue the initiative.
Within a few months, the effort had a leadership council that included executives from Orange County’s most influential companies and organizations, among them Disneyland, the Anaheim Ducks, Angels Baseball, Kaiser Permanente Orange County, Pacific Life Insurance Co., Wahoo’s Fish Taco, the Orange County Business Council, UCI, the Orange County Community Foundation and the Hospital Association of Southern California.
The collective plans to work with county government, cities, developers, property owners and service providers to establish immediate and short-term housing and long-term supportive housing for the chronically homeless in Orange County.