Description of the overall organization
For more than 97 years, WISEPlace has served the Orange County community through safe transitional and emergency shelter for unaccompanied homeless women. WISEPlace is the only organization in the county leading the effort to end homelessness for unaccompanied women.
Description of Project/Program
With domestic violence on the rise as a result of COVID, WISEPlace is finding more and more women are entering the program fleeing a violent domestic situation. Funding from Impact Giving will support the addition of a newly added Legal Advocacy component to our clinical case-management services. The program will assist victims of violence in navigating the legal/court process, making court appearances, pursuing divorce/custody, filing restraining orders and more, as they transition to permanent housing.
Description of how the Impact Giving grant funds will be used:
The money will fund the legal advocate’s salary and low cost/high quality legal services out-sourced by WISEPlace on behalf of their clients.
High Impact & Life Transforming
Of the almost 7,000 people living homeless in Orange County, 1 in 3 are unaccompanied women. Additionally, in 2020, domestic violence cases increased 25-33% due to stressors brought on by the pandemic. Many women in these situations find themselves with nowhere to go. WISEPlace fills this need. While most shelters serve men or women with children, WISEPlace is where unaccompanied women can go to heal and get back on their feet. With a vast increase in domestic violence forcing women to homelessness, legal service are necessary to protect and empower women to begin healing and transitioning to a new life.
WISEPlace provides education through 1:1 clinical case management meetings and through workshops/services that participants attend. Workshops include financial literacy, employment readiness, addiction recovery and group counseling. Additionally, case managers provide 1:1 education through goal planning, resource referrals and general case management working through a participant’s unique challenges. Women learn how to search for work, apply for benefits, navigate general society and the legal system, socialize positively with others, maintain healthy relationships, manage their emotions, face their past challenges, heal their traumas, and how to budget, save, and maintain a home.
WISEPlace has served the Orange County community since 1924 and has many longstanding partners, funders and community members who support its mission. WISEPlace will continue applying for grants/funding, developing new strategic partnerships, running fundraisers, and engaging with the local community to ensure services will be sustained for many years to come.
WISEPlace is a long-time member of the Orange County Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry System, Commission to End Homelessness, Shelter Provider Forum and Point in Time count, working within the broader homeless provider community to serve clients, make referrals and share resources. WISEPlace is incredibly connected to the communities it serves. Annually, over 500 volunteers provide service to the organization, many of whom represent local businesses/corporations. Other partnerships provide counseling/therapy, healthcare, employment assistance/placement, and financial literacy.
In response to the increased number of women becoming homeless as a result of domestic violence from the pandemic (2020, 57% of clients were survivors with 33% fleeing and in 2021, 67% with 42% fleeing), WISEPlace is implementing a new in-house legal advocacy component to help clients navigate the justice/court system. This involves implementing a newly constructed legal-expert panel to assist clients with court appearances, obtaining and enforcing personal protection orders, pursuing divorce or child custody issues, and staff trained in trauma-informed care to provide informational and emotional support to survivors of violence as they engage with the court/judicial system.
Success is measured by clients who transition to permanent or appropriate second stage housing at the end of the program. Intermediary steps to ensure a client gets to that point is measured through obtaining/maintaining employment, ability to budget and save money, behavioral changes like reduced mental health symptoms or substance use urges, and increased knowledge in the legal system. Data is collected, at minimum, three times –intake, mid-service and exit and tracked in the county’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
Organization’s Mission Statement
Our mission is to lead the effort of ending homelessness for unaccompanied women through housing solutions and empowering wrap-around services that provide a path toward personal self-reliance. We envision an Orange County where every woman in need is safely housed, empowered, and on a path to personal stability.
Link to the website: https://wiseplace.org