Homeless Aid to Total Millions

Times Staff Writer

Nonprofits throughout Orange County will receive $9.7 million in federal grants over three years to help the area's homeless.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the money to 16 nonprofits, part of the $1.1 billion in "Continuum of Care" competitive grants nationwide to provide permanent and transitional housing for the homeless. The funds can also be used to provide services such as job training, mental health counseling, substance-abuse treatment and child care.

"This is extremely wonderful news because state resources continue to shrink," said Karen Roper, the county's coordinator for the homeless, referring to the state's roughly $35-billion deficit.

"I don't even know what to anticipate with the shrinking resources because county departments will be affected. Nonprofits will be affected. It has a domino effect, and clearly those impacted the most are those in poverty."

In 2002, there were more than 23,000 homeless people throughout Orange County. Nearly 70% are the working poor -- families with children who have been priced out of the housing market. "This is a funding stream that provides great opportunities for nonprofits to be able to reduce homelessness," Roper said.

The total of $9.7 million in grants to the Orange County agencies is the most they have collectively received from the federal agency.

Human Options, which provides a shelter for battered women and their children at a secret location in Orange County, as well as transitional services to help them leave abusive relationships, received $100,245.

"Our clients are trying to get back into self-sufficiency. It's hard to make it if you're a single mother and your income is low and you're trying to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Orange County," said Lydia Pettis, program director. "You can be trying really, really hard and it's still hard to make it if your car breaks down, and that really gets in the way of keeping your job or if you can't get your legal situation straightened out. It has a horrible impact on family life."

The money will be used to help the women overcome these obstacles, she said.

"It's a godsend," she said.

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