There are nearly 2,000 homeless children currently living in residential motels in Orange County, California. Families don’t live there by choice, but by the economic necessity created by the gap between housing prices and living wages. There are over 500 motels in Orange County, many of which are now considered residential as business travelers and tourists utilizing motels have been reduced by the pandemic, and the need for housing has become significantly greater. These motels have now become the substitute for affordable housing.
As a non-profit organization, Giving Hands of Hope uses donations to purchase groceries at local food banks like Second Harvest and the Orange County Food Bank. These organizations provide a full spectrum of grocery products to assist non-profits in their mission to assist families with food insecurities. Our main objective is to distribute the food we acquire through charitable food banks to the families living in motels.
We identify the specific motels that meet our criteria in number of rooms and size of structure. Large facilities with many corridors and hallways can make for dangerous conditions for our volunteers. The most common property layout is set up where the rooms face the car parking with two levels maximum allowing volunteers to be in plain sight at all times while making distributions. We are required to meet with the onsite management of the motels we have targeted and ask permission to assist with a monthly schedule for distributing on the premises. The motel management is known to not allow food to be distributed because the mission can be misunderstood. They have concerns we are with Social Services, the City Building Code department or the police department. We distribute food at motels who are acceptable to our mission so as long as we keep them notified and interact properly then we are allowed to pursue our mission.
We selectively add motels for our distribution which allows us to staff and train volunteers appropriately and fine-tune the process of logistics, procurement, and distribution. The resident demographics of the average motel create the need to properly train volunteers of possible dangers and maintaining safety awareness at all times.
The requirement to have complete applications and rules of conduct in place as governance for our volunteers is imperative. An additional requirement we have in place is to have the volunteers experience first-hand how we serve by attending a distribution so they may see first-hand our clients and the environments in which they reside.
Most of the motels do not have cooking facilities and proper food storage so our distribution of products is chosen knowing this information while still meeting the basic needs of the residents. Products include: Canned Tuna, Canned Soup, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Canned Chicken, Ramen Soup, Granola Bars, Spaghetti and Sauce, Canned Vegetables and Canned Fruit.
Our primary focus is to distribute food because it is the most necessary item, especially when children are involved. Even though our clients are not actually on the streets and are living in motels, most do not have cooking, dishwashing, and food storage options available to them. A few motels have adequate kitchenettes, some have microwaves, and many have nothing. The majority of what we deliver is nonperishable food items primarily due to the lack of available refrigeration.
In addition to food distributions, we provide Hygiene items and Gift Cards. The Hygiene items include Shampoo and Conditioner, Feminine Hygiene products, Deodorant, Toothpaste/Toothbrush, Razors and Body Wash. The Gift Cards are for Grocery, Department stores, Gas Stations and Hair Salons.
Helping Us Grow
As our donations grow along with the number of our volunteers, we will expand the number of motels we serve. The need to serve the homeless population in Orange County is great and it will continue to grow as the number of people are constrained by a minimum wage that cannot support the average rent in Orange County.