This story has been updated and clarified on March 16, 2017 at 3:30 p.m.
Families who need emergency shelter can find it at the Theriault House in Stanton, Calif., a large nine-bedroom house that can hold up to 50 people.
The program has few restrictions on who can stay there and what constitutes a family.
“We practice harm reduction in that you don’t have to be completely drug free to enter our program. It reduces the harm to the children to get them off the streets. … Your family is who you say your family is. You don’t have to be married. If your mother is with you or your mother in law–that’s your people. They’re coming with you,” said Michele Cummings, associate manager of Emergency Housing for the Illumination Foundation.
A mother recently took all but one of her children to the emergency house. She had recently stayed at another shelter that didn’t accept her son because he was over the age of 12.
“She had to give up one of her children so the rest of her family could be in a shelter. We reunited the family here,” Cummings said.
The emergency house is owned and run by the Illumination Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the goal of alleviating the growing problem of homelessness.
“Our emergency house is essentially first base for the families coming into our program. Our families come in very vulnerable, very nervous about where they’re going to with their family. So it’s our job to be super compassionate, super supportive in helping them navigate their time with us,” Cummings said.
Families can stay for 28 days before they are relocated to bridge housing, where they may stay another 28 to 56 days depending on their “level of need.”
Also part of the Illumination Foundation is the Stanton Multi-Service Center, which conducts the initial assessment to gauge the families’ needs.
They have an outreach team of around seven people based out of a Santa Ana office, including a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). The team goes out into the field everyday to assess already existing clients as well as new ones.
The service center offers housing and supportive services including case management, therapy, connection to benefits, systems navigation and medical services.
The Illumination Foundation receives its funding from United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Aside from receiving funding from HUD, Illumination Foundation has a team that seeks out grants in order to obtain additional funding, has individual and corporate supporters and every March, has a fundraising GALA dinner called the “OC Chef’s Table.”
“I think we raised $700,000 from that event alone and that is going directly to serving out folks,”said Danica David, associate manager of Operations for the Illumination Foundation.
With that money raised, the Illumination Foundation is seeking to open a second emergency home for homeless families with children.
“The housing is very difficult to acquire,” David said. “Lack of housing in Orange County–that’s huge and we all know that.”