A Caring Neighbor
For Some, the South Orange County Family Resource Center is the Lifeline
to a Better Life
South Orange County has the reputation of being affluent — and much
of it is. But that’s not its whole story.
“We know that there are also pockets of great isolation and significantly
low income,” says Christy Cornwall, director of Community Benefit for
Mission Hospital, speaking about the poor who live in this area.
“Because most of our communities are property-managed, the outsides
of homes are beautiful and well kept. But look inside, and you might see
four families living in a two-bedroom condo. Or a family of four in a
10-foot-square room,” she says.
Families who live below the poverty level (a yearly income of $20,420 or
less for a family of three) can struggle with affording a place to live,
finding work, handling stress, getting health insurance — and not
know where to turn for help for these skills and knowledge.
The South Orange County Family Resource Center (SOCFRC) has provided just
this help to the poorest residents for more than 20 years. Now located
in a new, larger building, the staff can help more individuals and families
connect with their communities and build good, stable lives.
A big need
According to Cornwall, a growing number of residents rely on the SOCFRC
— last year it received 11,000 visits from community residents.
“In 1996, Mission Hospital helped to found the Family Resource Center
in collaboration with other partners,” says Cornwall. It was located
in the Mission Viejo Mall, but later moved to a 2,000-square-foot facility
near Saddleback College. After seeing how many residents were traveling
from Lake Forest, the facility moved to a larger space there.
When the opportunity arose to purchase an even bigger space, SOCFRC and
Camino Health Center (also affiliated with Mission Hospital) agreed to
share it — their services dovetail nicely.
“We looked at this as a great opportunity to work together under
one roof,” says Cornwall.
Classes on how to balance a checkbook, save for a home, apply for food
stamps, manage anger, cook on a low budget and use a computer are all
offered at SOCFRC. Clients can also take workshops on renters’ rights,
finding legal services, job interviewing skills and more.
Especially critical for families are the parenting classes and counseling
services for individuals, families, couples and children, as well as support
for victims of domestic violence.
Grief groups are available, as well as crocheting and knitting groups for
women who suffer from depression. “These groups are a way to help
women connect with their community, reduce social isolation and get out
of a depressed state,” says Cornwall.
Services and classes are offered in Spanish and English, and most are free
of cost. The idea is “to enhance family growth, promote good health,
self sufficiency and community,” Cornwall says.
The needs of people living in poverty are multi-faceted, Cornwall points
out, and include spiritual comfort. “Some clients have lost hope
and are in need of a spiritual connection,” says Cornwall. The Center
offers meditation and yoga classes, as well as spiritual guidance.
Cornwall says in recent years, she has seen rise in stress and depression
in families. “The need for mental health services has increased,
especially for kids,” she says, adding that they work with the Each
Mind Matters program as part of the California Mental Health Services
The poor may be invisible to some, but not to the South Orange County Family
Resource Center, who recognizes their existence and their plight —
and offers a strong helping hand.
“We see everyone as a community resident, and a dear neighbor who
needs to be cared for, regardless of how they arrived,” says Cornwall.
“Our hope is that the programs we offer help lift them up, and improve
their ability to have a good quality of life.”
(This story originally appeared in OC Catholic, March 2017)