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Opinion

The Crowd: ‘Help Them Home’ event raises money for O.C.'s homeless

Serving People In Need board members and donors Joe, left, and Heidi Heffington are among the community members who supported the "Help Them Home: A Giving Day For Orange County’s Homeless" fundraiser on Wednesday.
(Ann Chatillon)

“Help Them Home: A Giving Day For Orange County’s Homeless” is an annual 24-hour online fundraiser sponsored by the Orange County Community Foundation.

The third year of the drive took place on Wednesday, with each participating charity working to rally donors to match funds.

This year, the organizations raised $1,789,754 from 2,948 donors.

The fundraiser proved to be even more important during the current COVID-19 crisis, as rising unemployment and economic shutdowns have taken a devastating toll on O.C. residents in need.

The 19 participating nonprofit organizations that aid the homeless in Orange County include Serving People in Need, Build Futures, Casa Teresa, City Net, Colette’s Children’s Home, Families Forward, Family Assistance Ministries, Family Promise of Orange County, Friendship Shelter, Grandma’s House of Hope, Homeless Intervention Shelter, HomeAid, Illumination Foundation, Mercy House Living Centers, Pathways of Hope, South County Outreach, StandUp For Kids, Thomas House Family Shelter and WISEPlace.

“Requests for help at SPIN due to job losses, inability to pay rent due to business closures are up some 180%,” said Serving People in Need Executive Director Jean Wegener. “Even more serious, formerly homeless families successfully housed one and two years ago and maintaining their own housing costs, once again are facing homelessness due to job loss and business closures.”

She explained that the Costa Mesa based agency, founded 33 years ago, “responds to calls for rental payment assistance, provides resources for food, resources for utility payment assistance as well as helping families exit shelters moving them into permanent housing.”

SPIN employs case managers who handle one-on-one counseling with each family that comes to their door. Case managers also survey potential housing prospects by doing inspections to ensure safe transitions.

Andreanna Solis, a SPIN case manager, spoke about one of their clients.

“The Santana family was close to completing a successful year in SPIN’s Rapid Re-Housing Program when in March, the devastating effects of COVID-19 hit the family,” she said. “Two of the young adult boys had full-time jobs and were managing to pay the rent while caring for their disabled mother and their younger brother.

“At the end of March, things took a sudden turn for the worse. Like many families, the Santana boys found themselves literally jobless overnight. With very little money saved towards rent, they reached out to their previous case manager and inquired if there was any immediate assistance available so that they could pay their rent.”

SPIN has been working with United Way’s Pandemic Relief Fund in order to help families like the Santana family, who were approved for assistance immediately.

Resources coming from United Way, the Orange County Community Foundation, and other significant sources provide a veritable lifeline of survival.

Yet, as SPIN, and the rest of the 18 agencies involved in Giving Day, know all too well, community support is essential. Donor funds must be raised, otherwise organizations will fold.

In SPIN’s case, Wegener set a goal of raising $100,000, which she admits was a challenge this year given the uncertain atmosphere.

Her concerns were countered by the optimism of matching donors including Kim and Richard Crawford, Jill and Curtis Scheetz, Florence and Keith Smith and corporate donor Golden State Foods of Irvine, which provided a challenge match, enabling donations up to $50,000 to be doubled.

They raised almost $300,000.

For more information on all agencies visit help-them-home-giving-day.ocnonprofitcentral.org. To learn more about SPIN visit spinoc.org.

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