A year in review, and a look forward
More than Triple the Burritos
That's right! In 2017, we more than tripled the number of burritos delivered to our homeless neighbors last year! Which means we tripled the amount of times that members of our community shared an evening getting to know some of our homeless neighbors!
But what are we doing?
Sometimes, I struggle to figure out the exact answer to that question. This all started as a knee-jerk reaction to what I saw was clearly a problem and the need to get our communities more involved in the lives of our homeless neighbors. It quickly snowballed from there as we outgrew my apartment and moved to the East End Kitchens in 4th Street Market. I joined newly forming homelessness task forces, graduated law school, worked with Legal Aid Society inside The Courtyard, Orange County's first and only emergency shelter, and got to know some of the 400 people who considered the recently converted bus terminal their home.
Over the past year, we rolled more burritos than ever before (reaching nearly 8,000 total!), had more volunteers than we knew what to do with some nights, held more events, and befriended even more amazing people; hearing countless stories of struggle and pain while really only being able to offer food, basic necessities, and a compassionate ear for some brief minutes a few times a month.
Right after our 2-year anniversary, helping the homeless became illegal in the City of Santa Ana where we volunteer, forcing us to spend the entire month of December getting approval for our Community Street Outreach events and creating a process so others could do the same. Just as Santa Ana's Civic Center encampment is being targeted, days ago, the County announced their plans to follow through with the removal of a large portion of the Riverbed encampment on January 22nd.
So all of this begs the question, what are we doing?
We started by changing how our communities respond to homelessness and addressed some basic needs for our homeless neighbors, but it's time for something more. In 2018, we need you and your support more than ever. This year, we will need your voice to join ours and the others who are demanding accountability from our leaders to do something more than what has clearly not been working.
After taking the California Bar Exam at the end of February, I will begin a fellowship with MHALA, gaining invaluable education and skills to work with homeless adults living with mental illness on their transition and recovery. I hope to use the tools and experience that I gain to work on the development of programs replicating a Full Service Partnership, taking on the commitment to "do whatever it takes" to help individuals on their path to recovery.
Our long-term goal has always been to develop and operate environmental sustainable integrated housing facilities delivering on-site wrap around support. But, while we figure out how to get there, we are working hard to advance ourselves and our capacity to do more productive outreach, be better advocates, and provide more impactful tools to help transform our communities and work towards ending homelessness, with housing and proper support.
Whether it is your time, your voice, or a gift, your support propels us forward and we are so thankful for all of the support that OCBP has received.
Cheers to another year and more work ahead,
President and CEO
Check out whats up with our community street outreach
In 2017 we have welcomed almost as many volunteers as burritos rolled!
This has been absolutely amazing considering we started in November 2015 with just 6 volunteers at our first event!
With so many awesome people wanting to join our community street outreach, we needed to make some changes in the RSVP process.
To make sure everyone can get their hands on our burritos, we have limited the number of volunteers and will have specific registration pages for each event going live at the beginning of each month.
Be sure to check out our website, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram & Twitter to stay updated with future volunteering opportunities!
Ready to run for burritos?
OCBP has been selected as the exclusive charity partner for the 2017 Color Vibe 5K coming to Orange County on August 19th!
A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to our organization so please help spread the word, or get a team of friends to run/walk/roll with you for this awesome event!
We'll be handing out waters and hanging out so come find us and say hi!
What we're cooking up next!
As you know, burritos are just the beginning.
Our community street outreach serves as a means to introduce the community to their homeless neighbors and break down the prejudices and negative stigmas that are often associated with the homeless.
In gaining support from the community, we can have a larger voice to push for countywide infrastructure and work towards actual long-term solutions rather than simply continuing to put band-aids on a much more complicated problem.
Outside of our monthly events, our team is positioned on Homelessness Taskforces with City and County officials and actively engages in collaborations with existing services to hand deliver resources where they are needed most.
We are so thankful to all of our volunteers and donors who have helped us along the way and are excited to have your continued support in our future endeavors developing affordable housing while advocating for policy focused on whole person care and the underlying causes of homelessness.
Wednesday October 26, 2016 Santa Ana's City Council voted to undertake "The Orchard" as the City's first permanent housing solution for the homeless. Along with the County's proposed "Kramer Place" development in Anaheim, expected to be operational late 2017, the number of year-round shelter spots available to the County's homeless are slowly growing.
The new facility, expected to maintain a 77 bed capacity, is the latest progression by City and County officials to work towards a viable solution for Orange County's homeless population. However, much work is still needed to meet the current demand.
Taking over the space from an existing hotel, the $1.2 million project will be run by Mercy House, the non-profit tasked with operating the County's seasonal emergency cold weather armory shelters. As the third planned investment into Orange County's future, many hope the announcement signifies the end of the City and County's systemic avoidance in allocating resources to its homeless citizens.
Earlier this month, the County declared Downtown Santa Ana's Civic Center a public health crisis zone. This was following increased demands by homeless and community advocates as the Civic Center's population has steadily grown to over 400 people. Due in part to a lack of affordable housing throughout the County, the homeless have been congregating at the base of the Government buildings surrounding the Civic Center for years and the announcement of City and County supported facilities such as "The Orchard" is seen by some as a glimmer of hope.
Coinciding with the declaration of the public health crisis, the County converted an abandoned bus terminal previously purchased for more than $30 million into an emergency shelter with the hopes of reducing the Civic Center's population.
Aptly named "The Courtyard," the facility is operated by Midnight-Mission and overseen by City-Net. The Los Angeles based non-profits received $1.4 million and $150,000, respectively, through annual contracts to utilize the space to transition the Civic Center's homeless into permanent housing. In its first month of operation, "The Courtyard" has become home to more than 250 individuals and has provided many people with the help they need to begin the process of rebuilding their lives.
Despite its offerings of one-inch foam sleeping pads, laundry service, showers, storage for personal belongings, and meal service hosted by local non-profits and churches, a large number of homeless remain at the Civic Center.
Having built up a community in the area, many remain due to a sense of family and belonging with those whom they have shared the sidewalks for all these years. Entering a shelter and transitioning to housing is an isolating experience, especially for those who have endured years of isolation from society while finding solace among those who are similarly situated.
The efforts put forth by the City of Santa Ana and The County of Orange are commendable. Although, they fall short in terms of meeting the demand for the provision of desperately needed "wrap-around" services that empower individuals to maintain a successful transition.
Even with the opening of "The Courtyard," the Civic Center has remained home to more than 300 people. The Santa Ana Riverbed, is home to upwards of 500 people and countless more remain dispersed throughout the County.
Without addressing the need for increased mental health services, more accessible recovery programs, legal aid, job training, and the development of a strong sense of purpose through the possibility of employment as outreach coordinators to give back to their community, these efforts can only go so far.
With dreams of one day being able to provide such programs alongside our burritos, The Orange County Burrito Project will keep on rolling and continue to offer our remaining homeless neighbors a warm meal and compassion in the form of human interaction.
We hope you join us.