By Donna Gallup, President & CEO, American Family Housing
For those fortunate enough to have a caring family member to count on in times of trouble, the heaviness of homelessness may set in only temporarily before visions of a safety net catch negative thoughts and point them in a positive direction. But for those with no one to turn to when one of life’s vital cornerstones give way—a sudden illness, accident or unexpected layoff has the potential to shake the foundation of even the most sensible and well prepared among us.
The abyss of the unthinkable was once saved for stereotypes: the drug abusers, alcoholics and the mentally ill. And in a way those stereotypes provided some level of comfort, assuring many of us that as long as we played by the rules we could count on the predictability of our daily lives. But the rules have changed and the face of homelessness has taken on an unsettling and all too familiar appearance. Heroic veterans of war, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who have worked in earnest all their lives are suddenly finding themselves facing the stark reality of homelessness.
Particularly here in Orange County, where the affluence is palpable, the stigma of homelessness often carries the additional and unbearable weight of guilt and shame, driving those who need help and support the most into a downward spiral of depression and hopelessness. It isn’t hard to understand. With a deepening division between classes and escalating living costs, Southern Californians must keep pace in a region that consistently ranks among the nation’s top ten costliest places to live, or leave it behind.
Perhaps part of this troubling predicament lies in our own feelings of helplessness, or inability to see human frailty and failures as opportunities for personal growth. But that’s precisely how American Family Housing (AFH) approaches homelessness—and aims to end it: by offering unconditional support and a chance for everyone to live a better life, whether they are clean and sober or still facing the challenges of addiction, abuse, physical disabilities or mental illness.
Changing lives, one individual at a time, AFH is providing housing stability and wrap-around services to some 1,300 men, women and children each year in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, and is forging ahead with a bold new vision to assist more individuals with innovative housing alternatives, particularly for the chronically ill and veterans of war. With a first-of-its-kind multifamily housing project called Potter’s Lane—AFH will complete an energy-efficient, sustainable housing site in Midway City in 2016, comprised of beautifully modified steel structures that will meet the needs of both the community and residents that will live there.
As we move forward and as another holiday season approaches, AFH invites you to join us in our commitment to end homelessness in Orange County. One by one, we can create the safety net that provides the most vulnerable with a soft place to land. And together, we’ll become that caring and supportive family everyone so richly deserves.
Help someone have a soft place to land and give them a second chance by volunteering with American Family Housing. To learn more about ways you can give, visit www.afhusa.org or call (714) 897-3221.
Come celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Irvine Inn, a truly unique Single Room Occupancy (SRO) in Orange County. Developed by Aragon Affordable Housing, its mission is “To provide support to the undeserved in Orange County, California in the areas of housing, food and life skills training”. Learn more and RSVP here.
HomeAid has been ending homelessness with American Family Housing since 1994 through the development of one home, adding 32 beds for homeless families and individuals. American Family Housing programs are also recipients of HomeAid Essentials donations and other HomeAid Community Outreach activities.
Heroic veterans of war, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who have worked in earnest all their lives are suddenly finding themselves facing the stark reality of homelessness.