Binkies bring some comfort.

"They are some of our recipients of the last bunch of larger blankets you gave to us for the homeless."

"Hi Carolyn,

I wanted to forward this article on homelessness and how it is affecting children in the Santa Ana area. I also wanted you to see the picture with the family. They are some of our recipients of the last bunch of larger blankets you gave to us for the homeless.


The kids at the emergency shelter sleeping on the floor really got a lot of comfort from their binky blankets. I am so grateful I have been able to pass out so many blankets to hurting children. Your organization is so wonderful.



Sue Sonnenberg

Clothing the Homeless"

Our sincere thanks to Yvette Cabrera for allowing us to post this article.


Working families pushed onto streets


Register columnist


The day public health nurse Paul M. Leon met Linda Silva, she was sick, bleeding and lying under a mound of blankets in the backyard of Orange County Catholic Worker’s Isaiah House shelter for the homeless in Santa Ana.

This was in October, when the wildfires were raging throughout Southern California, and as Leon walked into the home’s backyard, Silva’s then-6-year-old daughter Kianna ran to him crying.

"Paul, please take care of my mom," Kianna pleaded as she took him by the arm and lead him to her mother. Kianna herself was sick with a temperature of 104, but her only concern was making sure her mom was alright.

"Kianna just looked so stressed," recalls Leon, who immediately examined Silva, a single mother of three.

Silva’s wisdom teeth had been removed the day before, so Leon checked her stitches and repacked her mouth with gauze, but when the bleeding continued, Leon sent her to an emergency room.

Silva had no car, no job and high blood pressure, but Leon wasn’t about to give up on her.

Last fall’s wildfires drew instant news coverage and worldwide attention, with millions of dollars in relief aid and donations pouring in to help the victims. It made me wonder as I followed Silva and several other families these past three months, why a state of emergency hasn’t been called to aid the children on the streets of Orange County?

How is it, that in a county as prosperous as ours, we have pregnant mothers and children sleeping in our parks at 6 a.m. in 40-degree temperatures after they’ve been released from the county’s two emergency shelter programs? The shelters are run out of the California National Guard’s armories in Santa Ana and Fullerton.

Why is it that on last Christmas day, there were families huddled in Santa Ana’s Delhi Park, shivering beneath the overhang of the Delhi community center during a rain storm?

"The children who are growing up in these armories, their future just looks so grim," says pediatrician Patricia Riba who volunteers at both armories. "They’re exposed to diseases and to stress that’s comparable to being in a war time situation."

The latest county data shows that in a one-year period, Orange County experienced more than 35,000 homeless episodes (meaning a homeless person was served). Of those episodes, 24,545 were families with children. Based on anecdotal evidence from shelter and service providers, 65 to 70 percent of the homeless are working, says Karen Roper, executive director of the county’s Office on Aging & Homeless Prevention.

Andrea Whipple, now 20, was one of those children.

For the last three and a half years, her family has been homeless. Andrea’s widowed mother, Diane Whipple, earns $9.05 per hour as a parking lot and tram attendant at a local amusement park, but her salary is not enough for an apartment for her five children.

"When people see the homeless they think you’re a drug addict or dirty people," says Andrea. "They forget that the rents are so high, that no matter how much income you have coming in, it’s all going toward rent. It’s either you pay rent and you don’t have food, or you have food and you don’t pay rent."

Andrea spent nights this winter sleeping on thin, plastic mats at the Santa Ana armory. She’s spent bitterly cold mornings watching over her 4- and 11-year-old brothers at Delhi Park as they tried to catch an hour more of sleep, then trudged to a nearby storage unit to help Diane dress them for school.

This schedule was Silva’s life too, and there were breaking points this winter, when she didn’t think she could go on.

"I would get frustrated and cry and say ‘Only one more day,’" says Silva, 34, whose children are now 7, 6 and 3.

A year ago, Silva and Whipple might have fallen through the cracks had it not been for a new Health Care Agency pilot program called Comprehensive Health Assessment Team-Homeless.

The program aims to connect the homeless with health care, but as Leon discovered, until families like the Silvas are stabilized in semi-permanent housing, it’s difficult to track them.

So with Leon’s careful monitoring and aid from various county agencies, both Silva and Whipple were accepted into the Health Care Agency’s Project RENEW program, which has placed them temporarily in motels. Silva now has a stable job as a security guard in a Newport Beach gated community and is on track to move into an apartment.

"Project RENEW was a boost," says Silva. "That’s what I needed to get out of the situation I was in because I was stuck."

There are many county agencies and nonprofits helping our homeless, but until every child is off the streets every one of us should ask: are we doing enough?

Contact the writer: or 714-796-3649

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