Increasing Homelessness for Women in OC
By Dianne Anderson
Word on the street is that the homeless may not be able to afford an apartment, but they might be able to afford a self-storage unit to live in.
It’s not so far-fetched, but unlikely safe and hard to get at the real numbers. The homeless are stealthy.
As hot as it’s been in the past two months, Joan Powell said it’s unimaginable that people may be living in these conditions.
“That’s what we’re hearing that because they’re losing their apartments, they’re renting storage facilities,” said Powell, President of NCNW Orange County Section.
The organization continues to reach out to help the homeless wherever they can.
Through their Saving Our Sisters program, they distribute sanitary and hygiene products as well as other items, sometimes food. But the organization is always on a tight budget, and recently their storage unit cost suddenly soared.
Cathy Steele Woodard, past president of the section, said they had to take a smaller unit in the back where she always sees the same cars and people hanging around. There’s no telling if they actually live there, but from all appearances, the activity is all hours of the day.
Homelessness is also soaring among college students on campuses. Not long ago, Long Beach City College opened up its Pacific Coast Campus Parking Structure for unhoused students seven nights a week between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. to sleep in their cars with access to showers, restrooms and wi-fi connection.
But Steele Woodard is especially concerned about homeless athletes. Sports are often synonymous with young Black men, even though significant money is known to flow down to support sports activities. She thinks it smacks of exploitation.
Steele Woodard and other NCNW members are working with those who are in positions of higher education, and who have come across athletes living in their cars. The Section is working to get a project together to help them subsist.
“I don’t know if they are here on scholarships. They’re in school and they’re struggling, they’re trying to become something,” she said. “They might be hungry, might need hygiene products. I can’t imagine.”
One study out of UCLA shows that student homelessness is on the rise.
“Over 269,000 of CA K-12, 1 in 5 CCC, 1 in 10 CSU, and 1 in 20 UC students are experiencing homelessness, a number that has risen nearly 50% in the last decade. These numbers are likely higher in reality due to COVID-19,” according to a 2020 study from the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools.
Steele Woodard also sees more Black homeless locally than she had in the past. She lives in Anaheim.
“It’s kind of surprising to me because you used to only see more white and Hispanics. Now you see more Blacks walking the streets and in the parks,” she said.
She also notices that there are more younger women lately. She and other members of the section often distribute bags of food, and purses filled with hygiene products.
“Most of them are 40 and below, there are a lot of younger women out there, I don’t know why they are out there,” she said.
Coming up October 16, the community is invited to come out and donate to support the cause at their Lavender Gala. The Fashion Show and Membership Luncheon will be held at the Anaheim Downtown Community Center from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 for adults, and $35 for children or young adults.
They are still seeking fashionistas that may want to help out with modeling. All ages are welcome to join in the fun.
“A lot of that money [raised] will go toward our homeless ministry. That would definitely help us out, we haven’t done one of these in a while because of COVID,” she said.
Recently, she was surprised that someone donated over 16 boxes of backpacks. Altogether, she had 125 children’s backpacks, plus 90 high-quality durable camouflage backpacks that were over 3 feet long and perfect for the homeless.
Usually, she and other nonprofits share if they have extra items to go around. She contacted the Orange County Heritage Council, which made good use of the kids’ backpacks.
Even though her organization was forced to downsize the storage unit, Steele Woodard holds out hope for better days of having more space so they can store more to give away.
“I just wish we had a building instead of a storage unit, it would be wonderful,” she said. “It would be so amazing what we probably could do if I just had a building, some money and a truck. We could do so much.”
For more information, donations, or tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org