Welcome to the blog!

With this first post, we’re joining the blogosphere in order to provide you with more frequent and more personal narrative updates about our work. You’ll hear from me fairly often, and you’ll also hear from other staff, supporters and friends who will share their own unique perspectives.

It’s hard to know where to begin. It’s been an incredibly rich, busy and productive time for Friendship Shelter. It’s likely that the last time you remember hearing from us, we were advocating for permanent supportive housing solutions. You’ll remember that permanent supportive housing is the most successful and cost-effective solution for chronically homeless people – those with long-term homelessness plus a disabling condition – and that we were eager to bring this solution to southern Orange County. Maybe you recall the details: we were advocating for a 40-unit apartment community adjacent to the ASL emergency shelter in Laguna Canyon. And if you do remember all of that, you also remember that our proposal was not accepted.

What you may not know – in fact, what you probably don’t know -- is that we didn’t stop advocating. Instead, we found another way. We got creative, we got a little bit lucky, and we got together with like-minded organizations working toward the same goals.

The alternatives we found were twofold. First, scattered-site permanent supportive housing: using HUD leasing dollars, we rented individual apartments across southern Orange County, placing chronically homeless people directly in to housing and providing ongoing supportive services to keep them safely housed. Second, using California Mental Health Services Act funds granted to us through Orange County, we renovated and repurposed our Henderson House Apartments in San Clemente.

The results? Not 40 units, but instead more than 60 units of permanent supportive housing managed by Friendship Shelter today. That number will grow with a new grant cycle beginning in August.

We’ve also grown as a leader in how housing placements for chronically homeless people are done in Orange County. Coordinated Entry, a new best-practice method, provides vulnerability assessments for Orange County’s homeless population to determine the best housing solution for each individual. The most vulnerable are housed first. Friendship Shelter has been using this assessment model for more than two years, so we were a logical choice as one of the first assessment teams when the County launched coordinated entry late last summer. Friendship Shelter’s assessment team has completed assessments on nearly 100 individuals and were responsible for the single highest number of housing placements in the early months of coordinated entry.

All of this progress is driven by a new strategic action plan that has focused us and deepened our understanding of our organizational responsibility. We are singularly focused on ending homelessness in southern Orange County, one person at a time. We understand that homelessness is a burden first and foremost, of course, on the person who is homeless – but beyond that, it is a burden on us all. This understanding shifts our primary relationship from Friendship Shelter and the client to Friendship Shelter and the community. We’re interested less in talking and convincing and more on listening and learning. We’re eager to adapt and grow to meet the needs of our community.

At this exciting time, your help has never been needed more. Your energy fuels us, and your gifts of time and financial resources keep us agile as our funding shifts to include more government support. We’ve grown from a $500,000 organization less than 10 years ago to a $3 million organization today. We’ve grown from serving 150 people per year to serving more than 550. And best of all, we’re ending homelessness for the most vulnerable in our communities by providing permanent housing solutions.

We’re eager to do more, to learn more, and to join with you on this journey.

Until next time,

Dawn Price, Executive Director