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Bright spot for homeless

Laguna Beach’s Friendship Shelter aims at giving those in need a fresh start on life, and when the shelter itself needed a face lift to bring it some new life, Santos Orellana stepped in.

Orellana painted a vibrant new mural in the shelter’s day room. The piece is an interpretation of sunflowers in multiple stages of life.

Mark Miller, who has been working for the shelter for more than two years, said he feels the piece is a good motivator and inspiration for the people undergoing the shelter’s 60-day Self Sufficiency program.

Orellana originally wanted the piece, which includes young and vibrant sunflowers as well as withering older sunflowers, to reflect the cycle of life and death. He eventually decided it would hold a meaning of seeking renewal from a state of decay.


Miller said he feels this interpretation is appropriate to the shelter’s goal. He said the art in the shelter helps inspire creativity in house residents.

“We live and work as a group and we’re all in different phases here,” Miller said.

Orellana, whose art is based in San Diego, spent more than three weeks working on the project and getting to know the 29 residents of the shelter.

“I considered myself as a resident, it was wild,” Orellana said.


Orellana created the piece at no charge. He said sometimes there are projects that are worth more than money for him.

“There’s either some sort of monetary reimbursement for your time or there’s some other really good reason to do it,” Orellana said. “This is a good reason.”

The shelter provides its residents, who are required to test clean of any drugs or alcohol before entering the program, with the tools to eventually pull themselves out of homelessness. Residents are required to find a job and the shelter offers classes and training.

“It’s really not enough for us to find someone a minimum wage job,” Miller said. “With the economy we live in, a minimum wage job won’t support anyone.”

The shelter also makes sure a resident’s biggest needs are addressed, whether they be health issues or even legal fees. Each person is evaluated and a course is mapped out for each of them individually.

“It’s not just a dry scientific formula,” Miller said.

After graduating from the two-month-long program, residents can live in an apartment complex in San Clemente at a reduced rent in order to get the rest of their lives organized.

“Unfortunately there is a need for programs like this,” Miller said.


There will be an open house to showcase the new mural as well as some of the newly completed renovations to the Friendship Shelter Aug. 18. For more information on the event, call (949) 494-6928.

For more information on Santos Orellana, visit