Every winter, the Santa Ana and Fullerton armories open their doors to hundreds of homeless and otherwise needy individuals.
The shelters provide food, shelter and warmth as temperatures and prospects turn cold.
Behind this effort is the Orange County Rescue Mission,which goes out of its way to provide supplies and services to Orange County’s homeless residents.
“When winter hits, we’re contracted through the county to provide food in addition to the meals we provide here,” said OCRM Foundation Relations Manager John Eumurian. The Tustin-based foundation also depends on volunteers and private donations to fund its operation.
While the armories are busy every winter, the non-profit organization operates year round as a vehicle for individuals and families to get their lives back on track. The Foundation’s Tustin facility — known as The Village of Hope — opened its doors in the summer of 2008.
Since then, the OCRM has expanded beyond Orange County to sites serving the Temecula, Murrieta, Norco and Corona areas.
“We’re primarily a back-to-work program,” said Eumurian. Getting families back to work has been an emphasis for the foundation, especially given the current recession.
“We’ve had an increase of 115 percent in shelter requests just this past year,” Eumurian said.
In addition to Orange County’s estimated 6,000 to 8,000 chronically homeless individuals, middle-class families are a growing percentage of the county’s overall homeless population.
“The challenge in our county,” said Eumurian, “is that we have 3,400 shelter beds, and there are 22,000 instances of homelessness per year.”
Once families or individuals contact the OCRM for help, they undergo a case management assessment. Then they commit to a two-year program to turn their lives around. Among other restrictions, The Village of Hope has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol.
“During the first six months we work with them on crisis issues,” Eumarian said. “During that time they are living on site.”
After some vocational training and life coaching, most clients are ready to return to work. The OCRM also offers transitional housing options to get families back on their feet and on the road to saving money. The housing costs range from $400 to $800 per month, substantially lower than the average cost of a rental unit in Orange County.
“Savings are crucial, so they don’t become homeless again,” Eumurian said.
The facility’s services include educational and vocational programs, job training, parenting and anger management classes, substance abuse recovery programs and a developmental assessment for children.
The Tustin site also houses the Hurtt Family Health Clinic, which operates three mobile clinics in addition to serving the residents of the Village of Hope. The clinic is also open to the surrounding community and offers medical assessment and care to the unemployed and uninsured.