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“Real Solutions for Lasting Change” is a bold statement, but it describes the conviction of how we serve the homeless in our community. I work strategically to make sure that there is value in all of our projects and initiatives. But becoming a grandfather to wonderful Sinclair Odessa Palmer, my son’s daughter, is shaping the perspective of my lifework. I think more about our grandchildren and future generations, and the legacy we each build.
More than ever, I am compelled to take a deep look at what we do as an organization. I continue to focus our efforts to offer more than quick relief to homeless people in crisis, but to offer real solutions that resolve their core needs so that they, too, can offer a lasting legacy of stability and hope to their families and communities.
As this conviction continues to shape Orange County Rescue Mission, our state of California has found itself in a crisis that is labeled a “homeless” crisis. However, at the core of this crisis, we don’t have a homeless problem. Homelessness is a symptom of something deeper. We have a drug and alcohol addiction problem, a mental illness problem, a domestic abuse problem, a sex trafficking problem, a crime problem, a poverty problem, and a shortage of affordable housing. The data does not lie. Over a twenty-four month period, my staff screened 3,874 people that self-identified as homeless. Fifty-eight percent self-reported as substance abusers, and 33% self-reported as having a mental illness.
We recognize that with the deep brokenness of issues like addiction, mental illness, and abuse, these challenges must be met with a professional approach that includes the internationally recognized assessment, the Twelve Core Functions & Competencies. And, we subscribe to key principles for serving those in crisis. By assessing each person who comes to us for help, we make individualized treatment plans to obtain stability, health and self-sufficiency. But along with a professional approach, deep brokenness requires that we take the time to understand people’s specific needs and their stories in the context of a relationship. And most importantly, these issues require a faith-focused, passion-driven program for success.
Each person seeking our help deserves an opportunity to experience true and complete transformation through a relationship with Jesus Christ. The testimonies of those we serve, and what we know to be true in our own lives, is that a relationship with our loving God is the strong foundation that we need to change and experience a new life. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Thanks to your support, we have been hard at work with launching our newest Hurtt Health Clinic in the City of Anaheim. We completed a new parking lot at the Village of Hope which allows us to greatly increase the number of men, women and children we serve. We have seen our services to veterans continue to grow in size and depth. And, we entered into a strategic partnership with the City of Tustin to create monthly Hand-Up Outreaches with the Tustin Police Department that has led to more people moving from the streets of Tustin into transitional housing and shelter. And I am excited to share that we have launched a new program called Strong Beginnings to provide services to human trafficking victims. More and more we are reading about human trafficking. It is hard to realize this is not something that just happens in other countries, but in our own community. In fact, in Orange County alone 284 victims were able to be identified (meaning there are more because they are difficult to identify) in a one year time period. Of the 284 victims identified, 261 were females and 74 were minors. I am shocked, and we have taken a stand to care for these victims.
Our Strong Beginnings program provides the same services within our Village of Hope campus, but also provides specific services to meet the unique needs of women escaping from human trafficking. Our response provides trauma-informed care through our victim-centered approach. We coordinate our outreach efforts with organizations trained for on-the-street interventions. And we partner with and accept referrals from Lives Worth Saving, Trinity Law School, Hurtt Family Health Clinics, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Orange County District Attorney, County of Orange, and local law enforcement agencies.
We are very encouraged by the hundreds of volunteers, donors, businesses, and churches that have come together with us to offer real hope to those experiencing life crises. We share with you on pages 8, 10, and 24 of this annual report, three stories of volunteers and donors who have made it their mission to demonstrate love to the Least, the Last, and the Lost of our community. Their help, and the help of so many others like them, is how we can offer real solutions. Thank you for caring and taking the time to become informed about homelessness. The politicizing and debating of the issue is causing more confusion and dehumanizes people into an insurmountable problem. But by God’s leading, there are Real Solutions for Lasting Change. I invite you to read the stories enclosed, to be inspired by what can become of a homeless person.
Jim Palmer, President