SOURCE: Mercy House

June 24, 2008 15:15 ET

Orange County Armory Emergency Shelter Program Contract Awarded to Mercy House

County's Premier Homelessness Advocate to Assume Operations of "Cold Weather Armory Program"

SANTA ANA, CA--(Marketwire - June 24, 2008) - Mercy House, one of Southern California's premier advocates of the homeless, providing a unique system of dignified housing alternatives, programs, and supportive services, today announced that it has been awarded a contract by the County of Orange, OC Community Services Homeless Prevention division, to provide site management of its "Cold Weather Armory Program" for FY 2008-2009. The county has two armories earmarked as cold weather facilities to provide shelter and services for the homeless, located in Santa Ana and in Fullerton.

In July 1987, Congress passed the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, designed to assist homeless individuals through improving such services as emergency shelters. In response to this legislation, Governor George Deukmejian authorized the California National Guard to make the armories available as temporary homeless shelters, with the intention of protecting the lives and health of the state's citizens.

The Cold Weather Armory Program provides shelter for, and services to, approximately 400 individuals each night throughout the 120 to 149 day winter program. The program is in effect from November 18, 2008 through April 15, 2009, based on additional funding. The two designated armories are located at 612 E. Warner Avenue in Santa Ana, and at 400 S. Brookhurst Road in Fullerton.

The County of Orange Cold Weather Armory Program provides emergency shelter, food and supportive services to homeless men, women and children throughout Orange County. It is coordinated by OC Community Services, and is a collaborative effort among the County of Orange agencies, the State of California Army National Guard, the participating cities of Fullerton, Santa Ana and Anaheim, Mercy House, and other non-profit service providers.

"The Cold Weather Armory Emergency Shelter Program is the epitome of a highly successful public/private partnership," said Karen Roper, director of OC Community Services. "It is one more action that county government is taking to provide needed assistance to our residents."

OC Community Services also administers the county contract with Mercy House for the operation of the FY 2008-2009 winter program. Mercy House will receive contracts of $189,003 from OC Community Services operating reserves and $242,500 from the county's general fund.

"We are honored by the faith that OC Community Services has shown in us, and applaud the County of Orange for its support in assisting the disenfranchised of our county," said Mercy House Executive Director, Larry Haynes. "Our intention is to improve overall services, establish a positive working relationship with the County's Health Care Agency and work proactively with outside communities. We also have a special commitment to work hand-in-hand with the Children and Families Commission of Orange County and other county partners, to provide the necessary services and resources to help end the cycle of homelessness for families."

The Mercy House "System of Care" is comprised of four distinct components including prevention, emergency services/shelter, transitional housing, and permanent housing with supportive services. The Cold Weather Armory Program fits into the emergency component. Mercy House's intention is to move as many people as possible into its system of care with transitional and permanent housing, where possible.

Mercy House's mission is to improve the overall operation of the Cold Weather Armory Program, with special focus on specific areas including:

--  Working efficiently and effectively with volunteers and other services
    organizations to increase services in a more coordinated and cohesive
    fashion through the creation of measurable goals and objectives.
--  Reducing the number of children forced to stay at the armories.
    Historically, the majority of clients have been single adults. However,
    last year there was a disturbing rise in the number of families with young
    children. Mercy House intends to secure funding to provide alternate
    housing opportunities for these families.
--  Leveraging the armory program as a way to showcase the need in our
    county for low-income housing with supportive services, with particular
    emphasis on two subgroups: single adults with mental health disabilities
    and families with young children. For both groups, Mercy House intends to
    provide emergency shelter, and to create and operate the needed permanent
    housing.
    

Another example of Mercy House's experience in emergency care and services is its ongoing relationship with the City of Ontario. Mercy House is a special consultant to the city for the "Temporary Homeless Service Area," as it continues to develop and execute its transition plan to serve the homeless population with Ontario connections. Mercy House oversees the delivery of services and feeding programs for the newly reconditioned site for 170 men, women and children.

About Mercy House

Santa Ana, Calif.-based Mercy House is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that provides housing and comprehensive supportive services for a variety of homeless populations including families, adult men and women, mothers and their children, persons living with HIV/AIDS, individuals overcoming substance addictions, and the physically and mentally disabled. Founded in 1988 by Father Jerome T. Karcher, Mercy House has established Mercy House Center, as well as transitional living facilities including Joseph House, Regina House and Emmanuel House. In 2005, Mercy House offered permanent affordable housing for the first time by opening the San Miguel Residence. Mercy House has expanded its services to open three facilities in Ontario, California. Guadalupe Residence provides 15 four-bedroom apartments for permanent affordable housing. Assisi House provides nine apartments as transitional housing units. Mercy House Center Ontario is anticipated to begin construction by the end of 2008 to provide emergency services and beds. Visit www.mercyhouse.net.

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