By Theresa Walker / Orange County Register
Launching a multi-pronged initiative to raise awareness about homelessness might seem unnecessary.
Orange County’s unsheltered population is visible in one way or another in almost every community. Or somewhere in passing.
But what is the general public perception and how do you change it?
That’s the crux of the United to End Homelessness campaign that Orange County United Way launched early this year.
The main goal: Educate the public and gain support to house the chronically homeless.
The next big push, Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, began Saturday and continues to Nov. 18.
Expect a blitz of messages — in print and social media, on billboards, at bus shelters — focused on bringing a more nuanced understanding of how and why people become homeless, who they are, and what to do about it.
The focus is on the chronically homeless: people who have experienced a year or more of homelessness, or repeated episodes, and have a disability. They are eligible for government-subsidized permanent supportive housing that includes ongoing services, often on-site.
Larry Armstrong, who heads the Irvine-based architectural firm Ware Malcomb, crystallized the mission in a message sent last month to the 50-member United to End Homelessness Leadership Council, a group of influential voices in the county’s corporate, business and philanthropic sectors.
Armstrong chairs the leadership council and told other members that they and their companies and organizations need to spread the word: “Our goal is to galvanize the community on the issue of homelessness, educating minds and changing hearts so that we may build strong community support for proven solutions to get people housed.”