WISEPlace, A Community of Hope & Housing
WISEPlace is the only Orange County-based nonprofit leading the effort to end homelessness for unaccompanied women; women who are largely underserved and underrepresented. WISEPlace has evolved and changed over time to meet the needs of women who are experiencing homelessness. They provide housing solutions with wrap around services like counseling and case management. Women served range in age from 18 to 90’s and 59% are survivors of domestic violence.
“Not every woman has children, a spouse or a healthy supportive family to help take care of them in hard times,” said Brateil Aghasi, CEO of the WISEPlace. “That’s where we come in as a safe haven for women to have the support and safety to rebuild their lives. We end homelessness by caring about one person at a time, because each woman has unique needs.”
WISEPlace usually serves over 350 women per year. They have two women-only
shelters in Santa Ana, a public and private shelter, and they are helping women and ultimately ending homelessness so the women leave their shelters and are able to sustain their own permanent housing.
“We solely focus on unaccompanied women because unfortunately it’s a growing and underserved population of women. It used to be that 1 in every 4 homeless adults was an unaccompanied woman, but now it's 1 in every 3 with more and more seniors becoming homeless because of healthcare issues and fixed income paired with a lack of affordable housing.
We are still very much feeling the effects of the pandemic. Things are headed in the right direction, but the pandemic and the economic effect of the pandemic have disproportionately affected vulnerable women. Women are disproportionately dealing with furloughs, layoffs, facing eviction and a lack of living wages,” said Brateil.
As a homeless shelter provider, WISEPlace was on the front lines even throughout the worst of the pandemic- homelessness doesn’t pause for a pandemic, and neither did WISEPlace. In fact, not only did they not cut back services, but they increased services during the pandemic.
Surviving a pandemic and thriving was only made possible with the community’s support. WISEPlace has been blessed with over 700 volunteers who sprang into action at the start of the pandemic and helped meet the demands to keep OC safe.
“Through increased community volunteers we were able to keep our weekly activities that are so important for positive mental health and connection, but the volunteers did so virtually,” said Brateil. They hosted virtual bingo, painting classes, poetry, book clubs, music, yoga and more. “It was critical for our women to feel seen and heard and not forgotten, even in the hardest of times.”
Part of WISEPlace services, is they provide daily meals. Three years ago, Brateil sought out Bracken’s Kitchen and formed a strategic partnership to work together to provide healthy and nutritious meals for those they serve. This partnership was also critical during the pandemic. “We love it when nonprofits work together!” said Brateil.