If you read the Orange County Register, you know about the plight of the homeless in Orange County, Shared Storiesthe tents along the Santa Ana River trail and the Santa Ana Civic Center, and the federal lawsuits to force our county and cities to do something. Seven years ago, Orange County adopted a 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness, but the problem got worse. The plan was scraped last year.

But, the county and cities’ efforts to help the homeless in their communities are getting better. In October 2016, the county opened the Courtyard Shelter in Santa Ana, which has 400 beds. Last fall, the county approved relocating that shelter to a new building which will hold 600 beds. In May 2017, Bridges at Kraemer Place, the county’s first year-round transitional housing facility, opened in Anaheim. In July 2017, HomeAid Family CareCenter opened in Orange. SAFEPlace for Women in Santa Ana also opened during that period. Last month, Salvation Army’s 224-bed homeless shelter opened in Anaheim. Two days ago, on March 18, 2019, the Tustin Temporary Emergency Shelter opened. There has been progress.

I mention the shelters because, although they will not end homelessness, they do help. They give their residents hope and opportunity. And sometimes that is all a person needs. Debra Leet and Jennie Galindo will both attest to that premise. Their stories – taken from the Orange County Register – are told below.

Debra Leet was homeless for two years, all the while living on the streets in Tustin. She became homeless after a 23-year relationship ended and she was left with nothing. Without shelter and health care, she became malnourished and could hardly walk. With help from the Orange County Rescue Mission, she got into recuperative care, and then entered a two-year transitional program at the Village of Hope. Leet now works in catering at Chapman University. She gives back by working outreach with homeless people one night a week.

Jennie Galindo’s problems began much earlier in her life. She was abused as a child and turned to drugs to deaden the pain. She became addicted to and used methamphetamine for nearly 20 years. She had four children between the ages of 16 and 30, but survived with low paying jobs and assistance from relatives. Eventually she and her children became homeless. They were in and out of homelessness for about two years when she decided to make a change.

On December 22, 2015, Galindo stopped using drugs, and sought help at a winter armory shelter program operated by Mercy House. She was redirected from that shelter to a seasonal family facility at a church. Galindo gained employment in telemarketing, and later moved to Regina House, which is a transitional shelter program operated by Mercy House. Galindo also enrolled in substance abuse classes, and attended group therapy to face the pain of her childhood. She began attending church.

Galindo moved to Las Vegas with a boyfriend after Regina House, but within a few months he abused her and she came back to Orange County. Galindo and her children were the first family to get a semi-private cubicle at HomeAid Family CareCenter when it opened in July, 2017. She and her children lived there for 44 days. She also received counseling, guidance and moral support from the shelter, and financial assistance from Families Forward for a down payment on an apartment.

Jennie Galindo is now the overnight logistics coordinator at HomeAid Family CareCenter, and is taking classes to learn medical billing. Her current job requires her to do laundry, clean restrooms, make lunches and respond to the needs of residents. It is not glamorous but she is grateful for the opportunity.

We congratulate Debra Leet and Jennie Galindo, and wish them continued success. It took a lot of courage to change their lives. They are truly inspirational.