CITYWIDE — For 31-year-old George, finally moving into his own apartment in Santa Monica was a hard-fought victory.

After a car accident left him with slowed speech and reflexes at age 4, coupled with ADHD and an unstable home, George started using drugs and alcohol as a teenager. He was eventually institutionalized for four years, after which George and his mother ended up living on the streets when she lost her job — until they found the OPCC.

OPCC, formerly Ocean Park Community Center, is commemorating 50 years serving homeless individuals, victims of domestic violence, at-risk youth and people with severe physical or mental illnesses in Santa Monica.

George started visiting Safe Haven, an interim housing and day program serving chronically homeless individuals. Eventually he moved into his own place, working toward starting a new job installing solar panels. George’s success story is one of many OPCC has shared over the years.

Founded in 1963, OPCC is the largest provider of housing and social services on the Westside of Los Angeles County. On Saturday, Sept. 27 the organization will celebrate with an anniversary fundraiser, hosted by actor Greg Germann with performances by Judy Collins, Chris Pierce and Jingle Punks Hipster Orchestra.

OPCC announced Thursday, Sept. 25 comedian Zach Galifianakis will also perform at the show.

Kait Peters, OPCC development director, said 95 percent of people for whom OPCC provides permanent housing are able to remain housed, well above the national average of 60 percent. From 2011 to 2012, OPCC helped 294 people move into permanent housing.

“OPCC began as a response to the needs of the community and has stayed true to that purpose,” Peters said.

The Human Services division of the Santa Monica Social Services Commission reported in February there were a total of 742 homeless individuals counted in 2014, a 5 percent decrease from 2013. Peters said OPCC currently serves about 4,000 people annually.

Julie Rusk, assistant director of Community and Cultural Services, said the city is proud of the ongoing partnership with OPCC over the decades.

“They have grown from a local community program into a regional and national leader in addressing homelessness,” she said. “OPCC continues to evolve.”

Rusk said the organization implements innovative best-practices such as street medicine, permanent supportive housing and assertive community treatment models.

“OPCC has helped hundreds of people off the streets,” she said.

Since its founding in 1977, the Sojourn program at OPCC — the second in California — has sheltered and provided services to thousands of domestic violence victims.

According to OPCC, their Wellness Beds program (formerly HEARTH) has saved Providence-Saint John’s Health Center more than $300,000 in health care costs on a sample of 10 patients during the first year of the program. It offers space for chronically homeless individuals with acute and chronic medical conditions to recover.

In 2005, OPCC took over operations of SAMOSHEL (SAnta MOnica SHELter). OPCC also pairs at-risk youth with shelter dogs through its k9 connection program, to help individuals develop self-esteem as the dogs are trained to be adoptable.

“Over 50 years, the needs have changed and become much more complex,” Peters said. “OPCC continues to be here, and serve those who need us the most in the way that is most effective for them.”

Peters said this year’s operating budget is slightly more than $12 million. The administrative and fundraising costs make up about 18 percent of that budget and the rest goes to client services, she said. There is no specific monetary goal for the fundraiser, but rather, “it’s intended to be a community celebration and awareness builder,” Peters said. She expects about 1,000 attendees over the course of the weekend, with more than 60 volunteers.

John Maceri, OPCC executive director, said in a prepared statement, “We are honored and excited to celebrate our organization’s 50-year history with the people who made the journey possible – staff, volunteers and our clients. We look forward to seeing as many as possible at the fall reunion.”

The evening fundraiser begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27 with a VIP reception. The celebration starts at 8 p.m. at the Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St. Tickets start at $100 for individuals. Part of the weekend celebration will also include an RSVP-only family and friends picnic 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28.

“We have always been nimble, innovative, mission- and client-driven in our work, and will continue to be,” Peters said.

YouTube video

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *