Orange County’s homeless population was shaken up in February when authorities cleared out residents of the Santa Ana riverbed and offered temporary relocation to nearby motels.
When the 30-day motel program ended on March 28, 338 of the 589 assessed occupants were sent to shelters, rehabilitation centers, hospitals or jails, according to a memorandum by Orange County Executive Officer Frank Kim.
However, the county still faces problems housing the homeless despite some receiving assistance. The remaining 251 homeless people declined shelter or services in some capacity, according to the memorandum.
That’s where the Cal State Fullerton chapter of Generation United Nations (GenUN) hopes to step in.
“(The homeless situation) was something we were talking about in our board meeting; the fact that homelessness is something we see every single day. It’s unavoidable,” said Sara Salinas, senior political science major and president of CSUF’s GenUN. “Homelessness is something that affects everyone, especially in Southern California.”
GenUN is an on-campus advocacy group, part of a national effort to promote the United Nations’ 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” to “transform the world” by 2030.
On Monday, the organization held an educational seminar with local nonprofits and guest speakers in Titan Student Union Pavilion B to encourage community awareness.
A resource fair comprised a majority of the event where students and the public were introduced to eight county outreach organizations, including on-campus clubs like the Criminal Justice Student Association, local homeless assistance programs like HIS House and national groups like UNICEF.
“There are resources and programs that definitely want to help out, and you can utilize them to better your situation,“ said senior human services major Elias Reyes Jr., an intern for the Placentia-based transitional shelter HIS House, which offers programs to assist families dealing with financial burdens.
Sophomore criminal justice major Gabrielle Bauer, who is also a fundraising officer for the Criminal Justice Student Association, said members of her club spoke to visitors about their experiences feeding the homeless in Laguna Beach.
“Everyone has a different mindset and different ways to help the community,” Bauer said. “If I were to walk around, I can be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I never would’ve thought of that, maybe we can implement that ourselves.’”
The tail end of the fair featured three presentations on the homeless situation in the U.S., including one by Southern California American Civil Liberties Union representative Eve Garrow, who argued that the perception of issues like mental health have led to public policies that exacerbate homelessness.
Eva Garrow from the @ACLU of Southern California talks about reasons why poverty and homelessness thrives in #OrangeCounty and America as a whole at the Gen UN homelessness resource fair in the @TSU_CSUF. pic.twitter.com/k56Q9eaQi3
— Jason Rochlin (@jdrochlin) April 10, 2018
By addressing homelessness, Salinas said the CSUF chapter is covering a “hot button issue” that fits two facets of the U.N.’s 17 goals: “No poverty” and “reducing inequality.”
“We want to cover all homelessness, but the reality of the situation is that the more you cover the less you can do,” Salinas said. “We’re trying to see where the gaps are and where we can best help.”