County of Orange builds a System of Care to end homelessness

By Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett and Supervisor Andrew Do

It has been nearly a year since the County of Orange clinically assessed an unprecedented number of unsheltered homeless individuals living along the Santa Ana River Trail and the Santa Ana Civic Center. Through that engagement, the County has increased its capacity to serve unique needs of the homeless community and has continued to build a System of Care that is integrated, regionally coordinated and addresses the myriad needs. The four main components of the System of Care that intersect with homelessness are Healthcare, Behavioral Health, Corrections and Housing.

In the last year, the county has focused on the development of employment and housing resources to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. After all, homelessness solutions rely on stable income and housing.

Chrysalis Employment Program facilitates appropriate placement of people experiencing homelessness into employment opportunities. The Orange County Board of Supervisors committed $200,000 to the program to help individuals re-enter the workforce and increase their income, in conjunction with investments from multiple local cities.

Landlord Incentive Program was granted $250,000 last year by the Board of Supervisors. This program will be operated by the Orange County United Way to incentivize landlords to accept Housing Choice Vouchers so that we expand our affordable housing units helping those who are on the brink of homelessness.

Housing Funding Strategy adopted by the Board of Supervisors provides a framework for meeting the 2,700 units of permanent supportive housing goal and a spending plan for $70.5 million of Mental Health Services Act previously allocated by the Board. To date, over 1,000 units are in development.

Additionally, the County of Orange has developed public-private partnerships that will help drive long-term sustainable solutions that benefit our communities and are key in the development of a System of Care.

Be Well OC Campus – In partnership with CalOptima, Kaiser, St. Joseph Hoag Health, and the County a regional mental health and wellness campus will be created to provide a coordinated system of mental health care and support for all Orange County residents regardless of payer source. This ecosystem will address the whole person with mental health, addictions treatment and short-term residential care.

Housing Finance Trust – In partnership with Association of California Cities – Orange County (ACC-OC), legislation was signed into law in September 2018 to create the Orange County Housing Finance Trust, which will allow for cities regionally to develop solutions that address homelessness through the creation of 2,700 permanent supportive housing units, the goal established in the Housing Funding Strategy.

Earlier this year, with the help of hundreds of community volunteers, stakeholders and partners, we conducted the 2019 Point in Time count, a biennial count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless across all 34 cities and unincorporated areas. We are thankful for the community’s support and for the more accurate and comprehensive data that will come from this effort as a result of an improved methodology. In April, the results of the 2019 Point In Time count will be released and this data will help inform future resource and service development and regional coordination.

While our work on building a System of Care that addresses homelessness is far from over, we are committed to finding long-term solutions, engaging in collaborative efforts and partnerships that contribute to our progress. We look forward to seeing the positive impacts our investments in housing and employment and public private partnerships will have on individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

For more read the op-ed in the OC Register

Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett of the Orange County Board of Supervisors represents the Fifth District. Supervisor Andrew Do represents the First District.