Friday evening’s event, which raised nearly $400,000, began with guests closing their eyes for several seconds to imagine what a homeless person looks like. When guests opened their eyes they saw a stereotypical picture of a gaunt and bearded man. However, they soon learned that only 17 percent of the homeless in Orange County are considered chronically homeless – like the man in the picture.
Guests were surprised to learn that families make up the largest percentage – about 63 percent – of Orange County’s estimated 18,000 homeless. There are about 2,000 children in Orange County who registered at schools as “homeless,”
“Orange County is the 5th wealthiest county in the nation and as a community, we can provide a solution to this critical issue,” said Scott Larson, executive director of HomeAid Orange County. A short film produced by Monarch Media & Design introduced attendees to the reality of homelessness and the impact that HomeAid Orange County’s projects have had on their lives.
Last year, Orange County saw a 19-percent spike in homelessness for families compared to 2010. To help turn the tide, HomeAid said Friday it was partnering with the Children and Family Commission of Orange County to raise money to fund a three-year plan to “open 100 doorways” --- for families seeking emergency shelter. In a manner of minutes, guests zoomed past a goal of $75,000 in pledges to develop five such doorways.
“HomeAid is once again overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity of all who so selflessly support our cause,” said John Racunas, chair of Project Playhouse and a member HomeAid’s Board of Directors.
With the auctioning of four custom-designed miniature houses culminating the evening at the Balboa Bay Club and Resort in Newport Beach, HomeAid O.C.’s Doorways for Hope and 21st Annual Project Playhouse took another leap forward to help take the homeless from benches to beds and from shelter to self-sufficiency.
“We are sincerely grateful for the support of our dedicated playhouse builder teams, sponsors, underwriters, advertisers, judges, hundreds of volunteers and our dedicated Project Playhouse committee members,” said Racunas. “And because of the incredible generosity of some of Orange County’s finest, we are very fortunate to be able to continue fulfilling our mission of building doorways for the neediest members of our communities.”
The four custom playhouses were on display at South Coast Plaza throughout September during the Festival of Children.
Project Playhouse, which began in 1992, now has raised more than $6.7 million to help HomeAid complete 49 housing developments in partnership with 25 service providers who provide aid and shelter to homeless men, women and children. HomeAid was founded in 1989 by the Building Industry Association of Southern California as a means for the industry to give back to the community and to help insure that every man, woman and child in the county has a home.
The playhouses sold Friday were “Victorian Surprise” by William Lyon Homes, “Surfer Shack” by BIA/OC Next Gen Group, “A Tradepartners®
Major sponsors of the 21st Annual Project Playhouse, in which homebuilders, trades, architects and designers donated their talents and resources to design and build whimsical creations, included Bank of America, Auction.com, PCV Murcor Real Estate Services, the Russ and Kathy Van Cleve Foundation and Province Group/Newport Equities LLC.
“These playhouses are a tangible symbol of compassionate efforts to help the homeless restore dignity and regain financial independence,”
In the spirit of the evening, guests were not left with fancy gift bags to take home for themselves. Rather, HomeAid left each guest with a CareKit packed with items someone experiencing homelessness would find useful: a bottle of water, an energy bar, a flashlight, soap, shampoo, a razor, etc. The CareKits also came with a list of websites and phone numbers for someone experiencing homelessness to contact to seek assistance. Guests were encouraged to hand out their special CareKits to the next person in need they encountered.
For more information about Project Playhouse, please visit www.projectplayhouse.org.
About HomeAid Orange County
HomeAid Orange County is the founding chapter of a national non-profit organization with the mission to build dignified housing where homeless families and individuals can rebuild their lives. Founded in 1989 by the Orange County Chapter of the Building Industry Association of Southern California, HomeAid serves as the housing developer and liaison between service providers, community volunteers, builders and specialty contractors. To date, the organization has completed 49 housing developments that serve victims of domestic violence, pregnant homeless women, and abused and abandoned children. Developments range from small renovations to multi-million dollar projects located throughout Orange County. For more information, please visit www.homeaidoc.org.