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New Costa Mesa mural seeks to raise awareness and inspire solutions to help O.C.’s homeless population

Local officials and activists gathered Saturday morning to unveil a new mural at a historic Costa Mesa church that aims to raise awareness for helping Orange County’s homeless population.

The artwork by Brian Peterson and Damin Lujan at First United Methodist Church was completed in three days on a small structure housing telecommunications equipment in the church’s parking lot.

One side of the building at 420 W. 19th St. now contains the painted and pointed question, “What solves homelessness?” Another side depicts a living room with a yellow couch, a plaque reading “Home Sweet Home” and a portrait of Robert Morse — aka “Santa Bob,” a formerly homeless man who now spends his time helping the unhoused.

A portion of the couch protrudes from the mural, allowing visitors to sit on it and be “within” the piece. Organizers said the mural is a nod to their goal of solving the county’s homelessness crisis by focusing on finding places for people to live and then receive services, not the other way around.

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“I’m much more than an advocate, I believe,” said Peterson — the founder of Faces of Santa Ana, a nonprofit that sells portraits of the homeless community and uses the proceeds to help them. “I’m a friend to the lost, a friend to the broken, a friend to the hurting and invisible ... [my nonprofit] has been an amazing journey connecting with people in our county that care, people in our county that want to see change.”

Orange County United Way sponsored the mural as part of its United to End Homelessness initiative. The plan is to install others like it throughout the county.

Additional help came from Orange-based Hanna Construction, with donated supplies from Behr Paint Co.

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“It is only fitting that we are here in Costa Mesa, the City of the Arts, for our very first United to End Homelessness mural,” said Becks Heyhoe, the initiative’s director. “Our hope is that this mural and those to follow throughout the county will engage the community in a conversation about homelessness and inspire creative thinking about long-term solutions as to how we can end our local homelessness crisis for good.”

The Rev. Sarah Heath, of First United, said the artwork showcases her church’s mission.

“We always say, ‘You are already loved by God. This is already your home. We just want to invite you here,’” she said.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley pointed to the success so far of the city’s temporary 50-bed homeless shelter, which opened in April at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene. So far, 70 people have come through its doors, with 14 finding permanent housing, she noted.

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) thanked the organizers for the efforts.

“You are showing us what is possible with determination, with commitment, with passion and with hard work,” she said. “It [is] such an honor to be your partner in this effort.”

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