Visit Anaheim Cares joins ‘Welcome Home’ program to help O.C.'s unhoused

Homeless people had access to free food at a 2021 Juneteenth rally in La Palma Park, Anaheim.
(Spencer Grant)

At Visit Anaheim’s annual meeting on Dec. 15, the nonprofit destination marketing organization announced its charitable program, Visit Anaheim Cares, would participate in the “Welcome Home” program, spearheaded by Caterina’s Club.

“Giving back certainly puts you in the holiday spirit, but in Anaheim giving back is such a central part of our destination’s ethos year-round,” Visit Anaheim president and chief executive officer Jay Burress said in a statement.

Caterina’s Club is a local nonprofit, founded by Chef Bruno Serato and his mother, Caterina. The owners of the Anaheim White House restaurant began providing pasta dinners to local food insecure children living in motels in 2005, which went on to become the “Feeding the Kids in America” program, feeding 72 children, five nights a week. Since then, the program has grown to feeding 25,025 children a week with another division known as the “Welcome Home” program, which provides resources to qualified families to move from motels into more stable housing.

Caterina’s Club partners with Mercy House and Orange-based Illumination Foundation to assist with case managing, financial advising and eventually the first and last month’s rent and deposit due at move-in for underserved families. Caterina’s Club also collects donations of appliances and home goods to help families get settled in their new home. “Welcome Home” has successfully relocated 255 families since its inception, and Visit Anaheim Cares hopes to increase that number in 2023.

During the meeting, Visit Anaheim Cares pledged to sponsor two families through the program.

Visit Anaheim’s mission is to positively impact its community through the power of travel, and it works closely with the city’s hotels, restaurants, transportation entities and theme parks to achieve that. Initially founded in 1961 as Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, the organization promotes the city as a destination for both business and leisure.

Anaheim is Orange County’s second largest city and has seen struggles with homelessness like the rest of the county. Visit Anaheim Cares has participated in efforts to help with the unhoused before. In 2018, Visit Anaheim Cares worked with the city and the Illumination Foundation to prepare a 200-bed emergency homeless shelter on La Mesa Street in Anaheim.

“Giving back to the community has always been part of our mission and is something we continue to prioritize,” said Burress.

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