Here are some stories of how we've helped people in the community.
We are saddened by the passing of our long time board member Stanley McDaniel. He first came to the Center as a client many years ago, then over time he turned his life around and worked at the center to give back. We will miss him dearly. You can read his story in the article the OC Register wrote about him in 2007 , below. Thanks for everything Stan..
'Been there, done that' way of helping
Santa Ana center using expertise of O.C. man who understands about being homeless.
July 8, 2005
Byline:COURTNEY PERKES The Orange County Register
SANTA ANA Stan McDaniel rarely missed a free breakfast at the Southwest Community Center during the years he spent living on the street.
No longer homeless, he's still a regular at the food pantry -- though now he never misses a board meeting.
Earlier this year, McDaniel, 57, became the first formerly homeless client to join the board of the 34-year-old Southwest Community Center. The man who once pushed a shopping cart to the center arrives in a blue PT Cruiser to eat pancakes on picnic benches with the homeless before meetings start.
McDaniel's appointment shows how Orange County agencies are incorporating the natural expertise of those who best know the homeless experience. Some programs allow clients to ratify rules such as curfews while others hire those who once slept in shelter beds.
"When you get it from someone that has been in that situation, you really find out what goes on and what people really need," said Connie Jones, executive director of the Southwest Community Center. "Having someone who has been through the trenches and survived -- the input to our board is real genuine."
The homeless population in O.C. is about 35,000, according to the county's homeless prevention division.
Doug Freeman, director of social services for the Salvation Army, said no formerly homeless clients serve on the local board, but some who have turned their lives around work as employees.
"Most board members are presidents of companies. They aren't working with the homeless," Freeman said. "It's my responsibility to give the rest of the board feedback from our services."
Larry Haynes, executive director of Mercy House, said the group has had formerly homeless board members in the past, but he prefers to include residents of the nonprofit's various homes in daily decision-making. For instance, clients participate in quarterly meetings to shape house rules.
"You're telling people, 'I respect you,' " Haynes said. "We're engaged in a partnership. You're including them in your vision. What you find is people get really motivated by that. They very much have an opinion and they want to attach themselves to an idea that we can make the world better."
Every year before millions of dollars in federal funds go to local service providers, homeless clients are asked to fill out surveys. Evening focus groups are also held to gather suggestions, said Karen Roper, the county's homeless coordinator.
McDaniel, a factory worker out on disability, spent hours volunteering at the center before becoming a board member. His volunteerism started even when he slept outside on cardboard with a bottle of vodka."The environment keeps me on track, being of service and giving back what was given so freely to me," McDaniel said. "There were periods of my life where I was just a taker."
McDaniel grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Santa Ana to live with his brother. A drinking problem worsened after he was laid off from work in 1990, he said. Despondent, he went on a drinking binge. One night he didn't go home to the apartment he shared with his brother.
He spent nights in the Civic Center. He heard about the hot meals at the Southwest Community Center and began showing up for breakfast and staying for lunch, he said. He would help clean the yard, and eventually collected food donations.
The staff helped him find a place to live. McDaniel entered a sober-living home and said he hasn't tasted a drop in six years. Throughout his recovery, he returned to the center for friendship and a sense of belonging. He spends just about every day at the center sorting bread, answering phones and writing letters to prisoners who once ate meals there.
McDaniel was approached to join the board by the president, John Collins, a Fountain Valley councilman. "It really made me feel good," McDaniel said. "They turn to me a lot of times with questions involving the homeless because I've been there, done that."
Copyright 2007 The Orange County Register