The WISEPlace Experience By Virginia Tibbetts

WISEPlace Annual Report Cover. Photo by Virginia

On March 1, a tour was scheduled through the Homelessness Demystified Buffet of Educational Experiences, of a facility to help homeless, unaccompanied women in Santa Ana called WISEPlace (Women, Inspired, Supported, Empowered). Eliz Hendershot, Development Manager and Demona Barlow, Program Manager took us around the facility. This huge building on Broadway in Santa Ana was built for the YWCA in 1950.  In 1987, a hotel for women was built when a county supervisor on a tour saw the need for a place for women to be housed. In 1999, WISEPlace was born when the agency disassociated itself from the YWCA.

30 unaccompanied women are presently housed in the rooms on the third floor. At WISEplace, these women must find a job within the first 30 days and are supported in this endeavor. Financial skills such as clearing their credit, creating a budget, and saving for the future are also taught. Depending on their needs, women stay for 3 – 6 months and transition to their own apartment after that time.

In response to the clearing of the homeless at the Santa Ana riverbed in 2017, WISEplace converted their former YWCA gym into a temporary shelter for 60 chronically homeless women and called it SAFEPlace. This was made possible through a contract between WISEPlace and the Orange County Board of Supervisors. This contract is coming due in September of 2019. At SAFEPlace, women can sleep, house their cats or dogs as well as their possessions, shower and do laundry. They are encouraged to go out during the day to look for jobs. They are provided supportive services to help them get on their feet once again.

For the future, WISEPlace wants to expand this Santa Ana site to create 30 small apartments offering permanent supportive housing. This ambitious project is Embrace Capital Campaign and is chaired by Eileen Padberg and Loretta Sanchez.  Five million dollars is needing to be raised with ground-breaking starting in early 2019 to mid 2020.

If you’d like to visit, here’s information about the final WISEPlace experience that is scheduled as part of the Buffet:

About Virginia:

Virginia is a member of the Irvine for Everyone Advisory Team. Check out our Homelessness Demystified: Buffet of Educational Experiences, underway from Feb.2 – May 4, 2019.

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