The following is a press release from an organization unaffiliated with Voice of OC. The views expressed here are not those of Voice of OC.
“It’s such an honor to be a part of this circle of chefs,” said Chef Arthur Ortiz of Skyloft Laguna Beach. “And, there’s really no better reason for us to all join together. Homelessness is all around us, in every city of Orange County. We can look to government or agencies and expect them to help these people or take care of the issue, but nothing’s really going to change until we all take on this responsibility with an understanding that these people are our people.”
Another first-time participant, the 1-year-old success story, Trevor’s at the Tracks in San Juan Capistrano, echoes similar sentiment. “We’re definitely seeing more homeless people here in San Juan,” says Owner Trevor Baird. “It’s heartbreaking and it can seem overwhelming, but here’s our chance to act locally, from a grass roots level, and change this – permanently. That’s what our restaurant’s mission is all about. Illumination Foundation’s invitation is perfect timing and a perfect combination for what we’re committed to doing here in our own town.”
A Chef Who Experienced Homelessness Firsthand
Executive Chef Leo Razo of Laguna Hills’ Villa Roma might have the closest connection to the issue of homelessness as his Sous Chef he’s bringing to the event, Justino Hernandez, was homeless at one time. “He didn’t have a car, so someone would always give him a ride home,” said Leo’s wife, Theresa. “He would tell people to just drop him at the corner where his house was, but we finally figured out that he was sleeping in the bushes behind the houses.”
As Justino struggled with addiction issues and absenteeism from work, Leo refused to give up on him. “He used to tell me, ‘There’s an angel in him,’ and he just didn’t let go,” said Theresa.
Today, Justino has his own apartment, recently got married and is putting his youngest brother through school.
Illumination Foundation primarily focuses on helping homeless families. Today, there are more than 32,000 Orange County children living in “tenuous” housing (i.e. cars) or homeless shelters.
“The most vulnerable homeless population is that of families,” says Illumination Foundation CEO & President Paul Leon. “We receive about 60 calls each week from families asking us for help. This week, we were able to take in 10 babies with their parents, but we had to say ‘no’ to 15 others who asked.”
The County’s First Emergency Housing for Struggling Families
Last year, the Chef’s Table event raised more than $650,000, which allowed for the completion of the Illumination Foundation’s first Theriault Emergency House, a Stanton-based home that takes in homeless families with at least one child or pregnant woman. It houses nine families at a time with large private bedrooms and baths for each family, new laundry facilities on both floors, a community kitchen and living room, and a child’s wonderland in a fenced, grassy yard.
Most families stay for about a month, working daily with case workers, doctors and local hospitals to get their lives and health back on track. At month’s end, families are helped into permanent housing solutions or bridge housing while they seek out permanent residence.
“Our only mission is to protect these people and treat them with the compassion, dignity and respect they deserve,” said Leon. “We have no other agenda.”
About Illumination Foundation
Since July 2008, Illumination Foundation has worked tirelessly to break the cycle of homelessness for Southern California’s most vulnerable populations. We assess clients to identify needs and provide immediate relief when necessary, followed by care that combines housing, case management, medical care, mental health and workforce services to decrease community dependency. We offer a low-entry threshold to access health and housing stability for the most vulnerable members of our community, with a focus on families and those with chronic health conditions.
Voice of OC posts press releases to provide readers with information directly from organizations. We do not edit or rewrite press releases, and encourage readers to contact the originator of a given release for more information.
To submit a press release email email@example.com.