Illumination Foundation CEO speaks at homeless consortium in Anaheim, shares the nonprofit’s progress


January’s 2019 Point in Time count of homeless individuals in Orange County revealed there were an estimated 6,860 people without a place to live.

Paul Leon, president and CEO of the Illumination Foundation, a nonprofit that operates shelters and provides services to the homeless, believes the number of homeless in the county has risen even higher since then.

Speaking in front of stakeholders at a homeless consortium hosted by the Illumination Foundation and Orange County United Way at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim earlier this month, Leon said the number of homeless in the county on a given day could be about 10,000.


“We’re getting people who are brand new homeless and then we’re getting the seniors,” Leon said. “This is now the second year of the baby boomers, and we’re really starting to see the impact of people who are 55 and 65 and older who are homeless.”

The Illumination Foundation provides 277 permanent housing beds spread out among 44 scattered site apartments, six recuperative care centers and 22 micro communities. All clients receive shelter, case management and linkage to behavioral health services.

The nonprofit also operates a children’s resource center and three family emergency houses, including the nine-bedroom Theriault House Family Shelter in Anaheim, the foundation’s first emergency family shelter, and the 101-bed La Mesa emergency shelter in Anaheim, which serves the most vulnerable homeless adults.

In November, the Illumination Foundation opened its newest shelter, a 3,224-foot eight-bedroom home in Anaheim that is among three emergency shelters for families operated by the nonprofit.

The Bob Murphy House, named after Orange County philanthropist and aerospace industry executive Bob Murphy, sits on a quarter-acre, with a backyard almost half the size of a football field, containing avocado, persimmon, crabtree and pomelo trees.

It can accommodate up to seven families at any given time. Typical stays at the house will range from 30 days to a maximum of 75 days, Leon said.

Also in November, the Fullerton City Council approved, by a 4-1 vote, a $500,000 contribution to the Illumination Foundation toward the cost of building a shelter in the 3500 block of West Commonwealth Ave.

The city’s Planning Commission could vote in January on whether to grant a permit to the nonprofit to operate the shelter.

Leon said health care agencies and housing organizations are finally at the point where they realize a multi-faceted approach is the only way to solve the homelessness problem.

“Whole-person care,” Leon said. “When you address the whole person is when things start happening and you save money.

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