By Ernie Schroeder, President and CEO, Schroeder Management Company, Orange County United Way Board Member, and United to End Homelessness℠ Leadership Council member
Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG
In this season of giving thanks, we are often reminded of all we are grateful for – our health, our loved ones, our livelihoods. This month, we also honor the brave veterans who have afforded us much to be grateful for, by honorably serving our country. Yet, there are hundreds of people here in Orange County, including many veterans, who are unable to count a place to call home among the things for which they can be grateful.
We know from countless studies that the solution to ending homelessness is a home, however it is not always possible or easy for those experiencing homelessness to find one with the resources available to them.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are organizations and individuals who have dedicated themselves to providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness. One such effort is United to End Homelessness℠ and its WelcomeHomeOC℠ program, one of Orange County United Way’s primary initiatives in our community.
I’m proud to be one of the WelcomeHomeOC property provider partners committed to helping this cause and have nearly 100 units throughout Orange County rented to WelcomeHomeOC program participants. The program streamlines leasing rental property units to pre-screened housing voucher holders with guaranteed monthly rent direct deposits from the Public Housing Authorities. As a result, I’ve experienced low turnover and enjoyed seeing long-term tenants thrive.
For people experiencing homelessness with a housing voucher in hand, the program connects them with apartment communities in the WelcomeHomeOC network to find a place to call home. It is a win-win for rental providers and the community. WelcomeHomeOC has truly become a ‘go-to’ solution for ending homelessness in Orange County.
More than 500 formerly homeless individuals, including 100 veterans experiencing homelessness, have been housed through WelcomeHomeOC over the past two and a half years with help and support from the 77 property providers currently in the network. WelcomeHomeOC has been nationally recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a “best practice program,” and enjoys successful partnerships with the Apartment Association of Orange County and the California Apartment Association.
For property providers who may be hesitant about renting to individuals experiencing homelessness or engaging with government agencies, I can help dispel some common myths.