San Clemente-based assistance program looks to house area’s homeless population
Some leaders of the San Clemente-based homeless outreach program iHOPE—Interfaith Homeless Outreach Project for Empowerment—know first-hand what a little help can mean.
Executive Director Cathleen Murphy said a decade ago, she managed to escape a 17-year abusive marriage that produced nine children.
“One day you wake up and you realize it’s very bad and you have to get out,” she said.
Murphy lived in Costa Mesa and earned a good living when she found out her rental home was about to be sold, and that she and her family would be forced to leave.
“I thought it’d be OK, that I’d just work more hours,” Murphy said. But as she searched, she discovered she had paid nearly $1,000 less than other comparable homes and was unable to find aplace to live.
Weeks before she and her children would be evicted, she was let go from work.
“I walked into work and was told they didn’t need me anymore,” Murphy said.
Murphy looked to a variety of shelters in the area, only to discover various restrictions kept her out, like her number of children or the ages of her sons. She decided to “ride it out” for what she thought would be a couple of months. She sent her children to live with family and friends and put many of her possessions into storage.
“I figured it would turn around pretty quickly,” Murphy said. However, after a couple of weeks, she realized things were much more difficult than originally expected and found it hard to land work.
“I didn’t know how to become ‘un-homeless,’” she said.
Two blocks from where she used to live, Murphy wound up at a church, and in an unused youth-room, Murphy lived with several other women for more than a year-an experience, she said, that made her want to help others in similar situations.
“It took me two years, three months and three shelters to get into low income housing,” she said. “It seemed like I needed to do something to change the system.”
Volunteer Gary Snyder has a similar story. After years of working as a tow-truck driver for Orange County, Snyder said his knees gave out and needed to be replaced, forcing him onto disability.
“My landlord didn’t want to wait until it came through,” Snyder said.
He spent six months living on campsites and received help from iHope.
Now in his own place, Snyder keeps up volunteering. He monitors the organization’s weekly portable shower visit to Dana Point and ensures the 10 to 20 people who stop for a shower receive clean T-shirts, underwear, socks and various toiletries.
Board member Max Wasinger said for most iHope clients visiting the showers, it is about feeling normal again.
“This is all about giving our fellow human beings some dignity,” he said. “It makes a huge difference. These are good people, some of them are working poor, some of them live in their cars and some of them live under the overpass.”
Wasinger said the organization’s ultimate goal is to get a local shelter in place again.
The largest shelter in the area at Capo Beach Church—formerly Capo Beach Calvary—closed its shelter after the city of Dana Point began enforcing a 10-bed zoning restriction, something iHope volunteers have asked the City to reconsider.
At a recent Dana Point City Council meeting, local resident, pastor and iHope board member, Steve Hagy, told councilmembers enforcement of the bed restriction did not effectively deal with the area’s homeless population and asked them to look at the issue closer to find solutions.
In a heartfelt plea to take up the issue, Hagy spoke of a friend, Brandy Fox, who died from exposure in early February, outside a sporting goods store in Capistrano Beach.
“She died 250-yards away from the shelter,” Hagy said. “I do not want her to have died in vain … we have to value the life of an individual.”
The organization will be holding a fundraiser Monday, April 1, at Bella Collina Towne & Golf Club. All proceeds from the iHope Golf Classic will support the organization’s outreach efforts. For more information on the event, visit www.ihopeoc.org.
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