Contrary to popular belief, the majority of homeless families did not become so because of bad or immoral decisions. In most cases they can only be blamed for living in an area of the country where housing costs and living wages are worlds apart.
The solution is not to move somewhere more affordable because these workers fill many of the minimum wage jobs that drive Orange County’s economy. Without them, the entertainment, sports, retail, hospitality, office & light industries in Orange County would suffer. These citizens are vital to our economy.
The majority of homeless families in Orange County live in single room residential motels not because they want to, but because they have to. When the average apartment rental rate of $1,600 a month is compared to around $1,200 a month for a motel room, it would seem the motels are a bargain.
Not so, considering a typical apartment has 6 rooms, as opposed to the one motel room that must perform multiple functions for the average family of 4 (all with a dismaying lack of privacy). Add to this the fact that a minimum wage job provides a gross figure of $1,400 earned per month—before taxes and deductions—and it becomes evident it is a struggle just to pay the rent, let alone feed and clothe one’s family or procure medical care.
Our solution is to assist our clients in the boosting and reallocation of their resources until they are able to afford those median rents. It takes time to earn the job raises and promotions that increase income. Low income families need the caring and support of an organization that is committed to being with them for the “long haul”.
They need to know that their value and self-worth is not tied up in where they live, but how they live. Project Dignity is committed to making a human connection with each and every person we serve. We feel that this intangible is the greatest service we will ever provide.
To say that life is “difficult” when you are poor is a great understatement. It is unimaginably difficult. The financial loss for a family is only one small component. The larger issues are the emotional and spiritual losses that occur. Adults are not the only ones who suffer these losses. Children are much more aware of their situations than they are ever given credit for. A child with a broken spirit is a disaster waiting to happen.
Project Dignity attempts to address their issues now, by helping the entire family. It is heartbreaking to hear a parent say, “We had a home. We had it all. We never expected to be here”. It is our greatest victory, when we have successfully assisting a family in transitioning out of the motels to be able to hear a child say, “Now I have my own bed, in my own place. I’m just like everyone else.”