Even as Friendship Shelter continues to press city officials for a proposed housing project in the Canyon for Laguna’s chronically homeless, the local non-profit recently secured $600,000 as their share of a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the Orange County Permanent Supportive Housing Project.
Friendship Shelter is one of six Orange County housing and services organizations collaborating on this plan to create new permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless. The other agencies involved are Mercy House, which has taken the leadership role, Colette’s Children’s Home, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, Share Our Selves and Jamboree.
HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced the award of $1.8 billion in grants nationwide on Monday. The grants aim to “support the Administration’s efforts to end homelessness by providing critically needed housing and support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness across the country,” the announcement states.
The announced grants also included Friendship Shelter’s ongoing HUD funding ($434,000 this year) for their scattered site initiative to lease apartments for mentally disabled homeless people that began last year.
The Orange County Permanent Supportive Housing Project, which aims to increase the county’s inventory of permanent housing for the homeless, snagged their funding after an extremely competitive process, said Dawn Price, Friendship Shelter’s executive director.
Overall, the $2.5 million shared across the six agencies should serve over 106 households in the county annually, according to a statement from Mercy House. Their goal is to address the needs of the most severely vulnerable chronically homeless people, the report said. It cites a 2013 survey that found 797 chronically homeless people, representing almost 19 percent of the county’s total homeless population.
Friendship Shelter’s portion of the project will be similar to their existing scattered site program. They will use the funds to lease apartments and provide supportive services to ensure the residents remain housed, in addition to covering some equipment and administration costs.
The other agencies will either provide housing or supportive services or both.
When HUD announced the availability of funds last September, the six like-minded agencies joined forces to come up with a competitive project in a matter of days, said Price.
Mercy House outlined the group’s proposal, competing against four other applicants, before it was selected by the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness as its candidate for HUD funding.
“We all realized the available funds were transformative and large enough that no single entity could do as well as we could do in collaboration,” said Price, adding that at a gathering of the partners, their sole concern was to map out a plan to maximize the good they could do with the money. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” she said.