Orange County’s bubble of privilege can make homelessness seem far away and easy to ignore. The harsh reality is that the rate of homelessness within the community has risen dramatically in recent years. According to the April 2019 Point in Time Summary, there were almost 4,000 unsheltered people throughout Orange County. From this snapshot, volunteers recorded 422 senior citizens, 212 military veterans, and 154 youth aged 18-24.
In Spring of 2018, City Net conducted a census of homelessness for the North Orange County Public Safety Task Force. The census revealed 1,837 people experiencing homelessness, with 123 being homeless children.
City Net’s 2018 report also revealed many of the hardships the homeless community is facing. 41% of survey respondents reported having a persistent mental health problem and 46% had a permanent disability, both at a rate of double the average U.S. population. Health needs are not being met, and neither are safety needs. 54% of women surveyed had survived domestic violence and 1,714 of the 1,837 people surveyed were unsheltered.
Youth experiencing homelessness are also in an especially vulnerable position. According to The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research and the Loyola University Modern Slavery Research Project, “68% of the youth who had either been trafficked or engaged in survival sex or commercial sex had done so while homeless.”  Often too young and inexperienced to get a job, pay rent, or own a car, youth are vulnerable to “fraudulent job opportunities” due to their housing and good insecurities. The health and safety risks of homelessness for men, women, and children alike are enough to necessitate immediate community action.
While plans to alleviate homelessness are being made on a broader scale, members of the Orange County community still have a personal responsibility to advocate for their neighbors. To raise support and awareness about the homeless youth population, organizations and schools across the nation host Sleep Out’s in solidarity with the “4.2 million kids [who] will be homeless in America.” Covenant House is the leading organization for this cause, hosting events across thirteen states. At the university level, schools like Vanguard University are mobilizing students through interactive experiences. The Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University works to raise support for Orange County’s homeless youth population through an annual Solidarity Sleep Out it has been running since 2011 and continues to have a positive impact on students.
Along with Vanguard University’s Solidarity Sleep Out, there are many other ways to get involved with supporting Orange County’s homeless population. It’s necessary that we each look for ways to make even a small contribution to the larger cause. LA List reporter Jill Replogle states that “…according to the federal government, Orange County has the second biggest homeless population in the U.S. among cities and counties of its size…” 
Homelessness remains an issue and Orange County cannot afford to turn a blind eye to it. Organizations with helplines or volunteer opportunities are provided below:
RESOURCES + VOLUNTEERING
- Build Futures
- Home Aid OC
- Share Ourselves
- Sleep Out America
- Mercy House
- 211 OC
- OC Government
- Women’s shelter listings
- Laura’s House (Domestic Violence shelter)
- Colette’s Children’s Home
- County of Orange. “2019 PIT Data Summary.” City of Santa Ana. 24 April 2019. https://www.santa-ana.org/sites/default/files/2019%20PIT%20Data%20Summary.pdf
- City Net. “Homeless Census Report.” North Orange County Public Safety Task Force. Spring 2018. https://summerofthepeople.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2018_HOMELESS_CENSUS_REPORT.pdf
- Laura Murphy. Labor and Sex Trafficking Among Homeless Youth, Covenant House. https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/ht/murphy-labor-sex-trafficking-homeless-youth.pdf
- Labor and Sex Trafficking Among Homeless Youth. Covenant House. https://www.covenanthouse.org/homeless-issues/human-trafficking-study
- “Sleep Out to end youth homelessness,” Covenant House. https://www.covenanthouse.org/sleepout
- Jill Replogle, “The Court Case That Forced OC To Stop Ignoring Its Homeless,” LA List, 2018 September 11, https://laist.com/2018/09/11/the_court_case_that_forced_oc_to_stop_ignoring_its_homeless.php