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OPCC Celebrates 50 Years of Helping People

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By Lookout Staff

May 6, 2014 -- The Westside’s oldest and largest organization serving the homeless, low-income people and others in need is planning a fall reunion for volunteers, staff and clients who have worked with OPCC during its half-century of existence.

“We are honored and excited to celebrate our organization’s 50-year history with the people who made the journey possible … staff, volunteers and those we serve,” said OPCC Executive Director John Maceri in an email. “We look forward to seeing as many as possible at this fall’s celebration.”

OPCC was founded as the Ocean Park Community Center in 1963 as a community resource center for low-income families in Ocean Park. Since that time, it has grown to support people in the entire city of Santa Monica as well as West Los Angeles with programs focused on homelessness, poverty, mental illness, domestic violence and at-risk teens.

A description of its services on the organization’s website says, “OPCC empowers people to rebuild their lives by providing a network of housing and services for low-income and homeless youth, adults and families, battered women and their children, and people living with mentally illness.

We provide everything from immediate services to meet people’s basic human needs … through case management, mental health services, advocacy and support in navigating systems and obtaining benefits, as well as various housing options … with supportive services to help people stabilize their lives and live independently.”

The email from OPCC about the planned reunion says the organization’s success stories are made possible because of its “extremely dedicated staff and hundreds of volunteers.”

The email further states, “OPCC is a community-supported organization in which staff, volunteers and clients work together with mutual respect to address the effects of poverty, abuse, neglect and discrimination.”

As a nonprofit organization, OPCC operates with funding from private donors as well as government at all levels, including the City. Among its programs is the Access Center, which opened in 1963 at the same time the organization began. It serves as the beginning point for homeless families and individuals in need of help.

“In addition to providing basic and emergency services such as food, clothing and restroom facilities to approximately 275 people daily, the Access Center assists homeless men, women and children in developing individual plans to identify strengths and goals in order to return to a life of stability and self-sufficiency,” OPCC’s website says. “The focus of our staff and volunteers is to help each person who enters our doors and empower them to move off the street and into permanent housing.”

With the  housing program, clients receive rental assistance from the Santa Monica Housing Authority and make up the rest on their own while OPCC provides services to ensure they can retain the homes. More than 250 formerly homeless people are helped through this program.

Projects under the OPCC umbrella include Campion, which provides mental services to people participating in all the programs; Daybreak, which focuses on homeless women suffering from long-term debilitating mental illness; k9 Connection, which brings together at-risk teens and homeless shelter dogs for bonding and training; Night Light, an outreach service for runaways and homeless youth; Safe Haven, which focuses on chronically homeless people with mental illnesses and substance-abuse disorders; Samoshel, which helps homeless people toward obtaining jobs and permanent housing; Shwashlock, which provides showers and restrooms for homeless people; Sojourn, which provides a safe place for battered women and their children and Turning Point, which provides transitional housing for the homeless.

Former OPCC clients, volunteers and staff members are encouraged to email so they can be a part of the reunion in the fall.

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