The New Face of Homelessness

Sandra Hutchens is the Orange County sheriff-coroner.
Sandra Hutchens is the Orange County sheriff-coroner.

By OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens

Orange County, meet the new face of homelessness: a single mother in her 20s with two young children.

Of the estimated 12,700 homeless Orange County residents – an alarming number by itself – nearly half are young mothers struggling to care for very young children. Over the last several years, the face of homelessness has changed dramatically in our county. Homelessness is no longer just experienced by single, middle-aged individuals living on the street. For young mothers, homelessness is a particularly brutal position to be in; every day they are forced to make heart-wrenching decisions that most of us could never fathom, and that no mother should even face, such as having to choose between buying food or diapers for their children.

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, HomeAid Orange County, in partnership with the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, is conducting the seventh annual Essentials for Young Lives donation drive. I proudly serve as honorary chair of this compassion–based campaign.

The HomeAid Essentials campaign is a community-wide effort to collect much-needed items for homeless infants and toddlers across the county. These essentials include diapers, baby food, wipes and other hygiene products. Through the HomeAid campaign, the sheriff’s department, working with our community partners, can help remove some of the stress and anxiety that comes with temporary living situations. The items received help community service agencies stretch their resources for use in programs that help homeless families achieve self-sufficiency.

Last year, we met our goal of ensuring that no child in the HomeAid network goes without the appropriate essential items for 12 months by collecting over 1 million essential items. This year, we are asking residents, businesses, and organizations to join us in our goal of again ensuring that every child has a one year supply, which is estimated to be 1.2 million diapers and 2.4 million baby wipes.

There are many organizations working to eradicate homelessness. It is not only my passion to help these organizations succeed, but also my belief that it is our duty as a community to help these families end the cycle of homelessness.

I encourage you to help make a difference. To find a donation site, visit


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