Homelessness is not just a crisis in urban downtown neighborhoods. From Huntington Beach to Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach to Newport Beach, people are living, or rather surviving, on the streets. Taxpaying neighbors are, in many situations, moved to vehement objection to homeless encampments.
They demand solutions from local governments. Safety issues, crime, drugs, sanitation, business interruption and real estate devaluation are topics leading to shouting in community forums. It seems that solutions are not forthcoming.
Sadly, the angst of home and business owners does not address the crisis facing our humanity. The suffering is not simply claiming the dignity of the adult population that has fallen off the edge of the so-called civilized society. Children are living in makeshift tents, the backseats of cars and in vans, and under blankets fashioned as lean-tos under freeway ramps and overpasses.
The numbers continue to escalate. Clearly, social services are overwhelmed.
Fortunately, there are concerned citizens in the private sector who understand the gravity of the condition. In uniquely American tradition dating back to the founding fathers, residents come together to solve problems in society well aware that the common good is also what is best for the individual lending help. In Orange County, there are forces making a difference for the homeless.
In particular, Serving People In Need (SPIN) — based in Costa Mesa since 1988 and serving all Orange County communities challenged by homelessness — has assisted hundreds of individuals on the verge of living on the street.
“SPIN’s program is called GAPP (Guided Assistance To Permanent Placement), which provides move-in costs for housing, homelessness prevention and diversion,” according to Kim Frazier, director of events and volunteer services.
The program is for families with children, placing them in permanent housing and providing lasting follow-up counseling in financial responsibility, job development, budgeting and more.
To do this, money — collected carefully and spent wisely — is the bottom line.
Jean Wegener, executive director of SPIN, shares that 91% of funds raised go directly to its programs. As a result of such diligence and success, SPIN was invited to be the “housing partner” at the Melinda Hoag Smith Resource Center, the only facility of its kind attached to a hospital in the O.C.
On Sep. 27 Wegener and her staff welcomed 250 guests to the annual SPIN dinner in the ballroom of Balboa Bay Resort . The annual gala event has been one of the traditional opening events of the fall social season on the Orange Coast for over three decades, and it has become known for its unique theme and exceptional dining and entertainment components. The evening lived up to that reputation.
Themed as “A Night in New York,” the ballroom was transformed into a Manhattan skyline of iconic skyscrapers ablaze with light against a black draped wall sky.
The 16-piece Pete Jacobs Band fronted by crooner Matt Mouser — think Frank Sinatra at the Copa — to Newport Beach for a magical evening of dancing until the Cinderella hour.
Longtime SPIN advocates and donors Trish O’Donnell, Wayne and MaryLou Shattuck, Keith Smith, Jill and Curtis Scheetz, Joe and Heidi Heffington, Kim and Dick Crawford, Ed and Melanie Fitch, and Karen and Dick Nichol, shared an exceptional dinner featuring wine-braised short ribs accompanied by fine Trefethen and Justin vintages.
Nationally known comic Bobby Collins, a regular on “The Tonight Show Staring Jimmy Falon,” kept the crowd in hysterics with his New York humor, urging all to give generously at the auction and the “ask.”
By the end of the evening, some $350,000 was raised to keep O.C. families with children housed with food on the table and, perhaps just as significant, hope for a turnaround in life, another chance to become self-sufficient members.