Content warning: This article contains mentions of suicide.
In March, Reginald Thomas joined the waitlist for the Inter-Faith Council Community House, a 24-hour transitional shelter for men experiencing homelessness. Six months later, he is still unhoused and couch-surfing while he waits for one of the 52 beds in the shelter.
Thomas, 55, said he just wants to stay at the shelter long enough to “clean up and get a job,” to then be able to qualify for more permanent public housing. But, he is one of hundreds on the waitlist for the Community House and said he has not received any notice about his position on the waitlist.
“The only road to housing here is through a shelter,” he said. “Everybody that has a house now has been through the shelter.”
The Community House prioritizes individuals on the waitlist based on vulnerability factors, such as length of time unhoused and exposure to domestic violence.
Rachel Waltz, the manager for the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, said Orange County's housing helpline can offer direction for any level of housing crisis, from falling behind on rent to experiencing homelessness.
Because there is no same-day shelter in Orange County and the Community House has limited space, Orange County attempts to divert people to alternative housing resources through the housing helpline before they sign up for the Community House waitlist.
Diversion could be connecting someone with an eviction diversion program, or having them ask family and friends for a temporary place to stay.
“Our system is really set up so that nobody should be waiting for shelter with no other plan in place,” Waltz said. “The goal for folks is really to have as many irons in the fire as possible.”