IRVINE, Calif., March 01, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Top leaders from Orange County’s corporate, philanthropic, faith-based, government and non-profit sectors gathered on Feb. 28 at UC Irvine for the official launch of “United to End Homelessness,” a community-wide initiative led by Orange County United Way that will work to ensure integrated and sustainable solutions are implemented for people suffering from homelessness in Orange County.

A core element of the campaign will include identifying locations at which homeless individuals can be permanently housed, while addressing the underlying challenges that led them to live on the streets in the first place.

“Homelessness in Orange County has grown into crisis proportions and will spiral out of control unless we, as a community, come together to shine the light on and expand real and lasting solutions,” announced Sue Parks, President and CEO of Orange County United Way.

At the kickoff, Parks unveiled the United to End Homelessness impressive Leadership Council that includes executives from Disneyland, Angels Baseball, the Ducks, Chargers, Kaiser Permanente and Wahoo’s, along with a host of influential local organizations such as the Orange County Business Council, Association of California Cities – Orange County, UC Irvine, the Orange County Community Foundation, Apartment Association of Orange County and the Hospital Association of Southern California, among others.

“Groundbreaking” Homelessness Cost Study Serves as Campaign Framework

The Leadership Council will work with United Way and others to roll out a comprehensive strategy to find permanent supportive housing solutions for Orange County’s chronically homeless individuals. This was one of five key recommendations detailed in a groundbreaking 2017 UC Irvine Homelessness Cost Study.

“One of the key findings in our research is the significant cost savings associated with getting homeless individuals into stable and supportive living environments,” explained UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman, a member of the United to End Homelessness Leadership Council. “Currently, we spend twice as much on homeless emergency services, hospital room visits, incarcerations and other costs as we would on permanent supportive housing. Moving chronically homeless people into long-term housing where they can get the help they need will result in appreciable benefits to the taxpayer.”

The collaborative will work with the County of Orange, local cities, developers, property owners and service providers to establish short, immediate and long-term permanent supportive housing solutions for Orange County’s chronically homeless individuals. It will also analyze data on the extent of homelessness, where homeless individuals are located and details about their specific needs to ensure effective housing and support services are provided.

Awareness is Key

Another key recommendation in the Cost Study that will play a vital role in the United to End Homelessness effort will be fundamentally changing how Orange County thinks of homeless individuals. A public awareness campaign will be rolled out to educate local residents about the complexities of homelessness. Leaders of the effort hope that by reframing the narrative away from homelessness as “a problem” and more on the people who can and should be helped, they can build a groundswell of local support for addressing the problem in a real and meaningful way.

“Ending chronic street homelessness will require a sea change in understanding about who our homeless neighbors are, their needs and what it will take to find lasting solutions,” said Larry Armstrong, CEO of Irvine-based architecture and engineering firm Ware Malcomb, and founding chair of United to End Homelessness.

Armstrong added, “We must change hearts and minds about whom the homeless are, how they became homeless in the first place and the tough decisions that will need to be made so we can best help them.”

The kickoff event doubled as the launch of the public awareness effort, which concluded with every member in the audience standing in support of the thousands of local people suffering from homelessness, stating their pledge to help end this issue by proclaiming “I’m in!”

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett was one of those in attendance Wednesday.

“Working with the community to make this a reality is my top priority,” she said, “and I thank United Way for leading this effort.”

For more information about United to End Homelessness, a complete list of the initiative’s Leadership Council, specific goals and objectives, and how to get involved, please visit www.unitedtoendhomelessness.org

ABOUT UNITED TO END HOMELESSNESS
Following up on key recommendations in the landmark Homelessness Cost Study commissioned by Orange County United Way in partnership with University of California, Irvine and Jamboree, and applying lessons learned from other communities, the United to End Homelessness coalition, led by United Way, is comprised of local leaders working to ensure that integrated and sustainable solutions are implemented on behalf of Orange County neighbors suffering from homelessness. The goal is to end street homelessness in Orange County. For more information, please visit www.unitedtoendhomelessness.org.

CONTACTS:
Kristina Sarenas | Meghan Webb
IDEA HALL                                        
(714) 263-8750 | (714) 263-8748                                                         
kristina@ideahall.com | meghan@ideahall.com

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/167873d9-0b53-4f9f-bb52-38a1b6d3e05a