WISEPlace

A Community of Hope & Housing

aka SAFEPlace   |   Santa Ana, CA   |  www.wiseplace.org

Mission

To lead the effort of ending homelessness for unaccompanied women through housing solutions and empowering wrap-around services that provide a path toward personal self-reliance. We envision an Orange County where every women in need is safely housed, empowered, and on a path to personal stability.

Ruling year info

1948

Chief Executive Officer

Ms. Brateil Aghasi

Main address

1411 N Broadway

Santa Ana, CA 92706 USA

Show more contact info

Formerly known as

YWCA of South Orange County

Hotel for Women

EIN

95-1684796

NTEE code info

Temporary Shelter For the Homeless (L41)

Homeless Services/Centers (P85)

Community, Neighborhood Development, Improvement (S20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Poverty impacts a woman’s chance of becoming homeless. Meaning any instability in a relationship, work or her health, and she could find herself homeless. In Orange County, of the almost 7,000 people living homeless, 1 in 3 are female. This number is expected to increase exponentially exacerbated by the pandemic. Women experiencing homelessness have different needs than men. They are 5-10x more likely to die or to be assaulted than the general population and are victimized at a much higher rate than men (70% are domestic violence victims and 41% are sexual assault victims). Women tend to use more services and report having lower self-esteem, less satisfaction with health and empowerment and have higher psychological distress. This is where WISEPlace comes in. As the only shelter in Orange County dedicated solely to the needs of unaccompanied women, we specialize in emergency and transitional shelter and trauma informed wraparound services specific to unaccompanied homeless women.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Steps to Independence

Our core program, Steps to Independence (STI) has been in existence since 1987. STI is a low-barrier 34-bed transitional housing program where unaccompanied adult women experiencing homelessness can stay for three to nine months.

STI not only provides safe shelter and health nourishment, but is a place where a woman can come to heal the traumas that caused her homelessness. Women in the program have endured traumas such as domestic violence or sexual assault, have challenges with substance use, incarceration histories, are former foster youth, or have suffered a major financial or familial loss.

Women in the program are led through the WISEPlace Way which includes:

- Safe Shelter appropriate clothing, and healthy nourishment
- 1:1 Case Management & Counseling by licensed counselors and psychiatrists
- Goal Creation for personal and housing needs
- Employment Assistance - Resume development, interview preparation, and professional clothing
- Health & Wellness - Proactive support to stabilize health and wellness and to secure access to medical services
- Socialization activities such as yoga, art healing and bingo, promoting socialization and overall well-being
- Addiction Recovery - Interactive support groups, led by a licensed facilitator, to overcome addiction (e.g., drugs, alcohol, gambling, over-eating)
- Financial Planning - Financial literacy, budgeting, personal savings, and taxes
- Housing Assistance - Housing plan backed by supportive resources like rental deposits, moving fees and home furnishings
- Graduation into sustained housing and personal self-reliance

Each woman has her own bedroom, shares a bathroom with one or two other women, and shares an internet equipped office, a kitchen and indoor and outdoor communal areas with the other women in the house.

"Positive Step" serves women who have completed Steps to Independence and need additional support. Positive Step  is a short term, community housing project with full wraparound services where women can stay for an additional six months.

Through the transitional programs STI and Positive Step, more than 100 women are served annually.

Population(s) Served
Homeless people
Women and girls

SAFEPlace is a temporary 60-bed communal living temporary emergency shelter for unaccompanied homeless women and their domestic pets.

SAFEPlace began in March of 2018 as a result of the lawsuit against the county of Orange for the riverbed situation. SAFEPlace provides immediate, low-barrier emergency shelter for women experiencing homelessness, meaning we accept women where they are at by providing a housing first approach.

A majority of these women come from other emergency shelters (e.g. domestic violence shelters), treatment facilities (e.g. mental health, addiction) and places not meant for habitation (e.g. cars, tents, outdoors). It is critical that these women receive safe shelter and support, because they experience extremely high levels of victimization before, during and after episodes of homelessness.

A barrier for most women in these situations is the inability to receive shelter due to them having a pet. Since women on the street are victims of violence and assault, often times a dog can not only serve as their family member, but as source of protection. SAFEPlace welcomes these pets into our shelter and provides food and veterinary care and behavioral training for the pets to keep them healthy and safe as well.

In addition to having a safe place to sleep and health nourishment, women receive full wraparound services including therapy/counseling, employment readiness, addiction groups, medical, vision and dental care, socialization activities, and financial empowerment workshops. Every woman is assigned a case manager who meets with them weekly to work on a transition plan that best fits their goals and situation. Women in emergency shelter often need an interim program to help address ongoing challenges they have that led to their homelessness, or to allow them time get them employed and save money before moving into permanent housing. Those that are ready work with the Housing Specialist to identify a permanent place of residence.

SAFEPlace serves almost 200 women annually.

Update: As of February 2021, SAFEPlace's temporary emergency shelter transitioned clients to the new permanent county shelter. SAFEPlace served as a temporary bridge to house women until this new, permanent option was available.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Substance abusers

Where we work

Awards

2021 California Nonprofit of the Year 2021

Assemblymember Tom Daly

Affiliations & memberships

2021 Nonprofit of the Year - Assemblymember Tom Daly 2021

Santa Ana Chamber, Non-Profit Person of the Year (Brateil Aghasi, CEO) 2020

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of people no longer living in unsafe or substandard housing as a result of the nonprofit's efforts

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Women and girls, Economically disadvantaged people, Homeless people

Related Program

Steps to Independence

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

A larger number of participants who needed more support were exited to second step housing.

Number of participants who gain employment

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Women and girls, Economically disadvantaged people, Homeless people

Related Program

Steps to Independence

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

**Employment is being tracked more accurately on an annual basis.

Number of direct care staff who received training in trauma informed care

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Economically disadvantaged people, Victims of crime and abuse, Adults, Ethnic and racial groups, Health

Related Program

Steps to Independence

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Number of direct care staff who received training in primary prevention strategies and other techniques to avoid the need for restraint and seclusion

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Health, Economically disadvantaged people, Victims of crime and abuse, Ethnic and racial groups, Women

Related Program

Steps to Independence

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Number of meals served or provided

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Homeless people, Women, Low-income people, Victims of crime and abuse

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

WISEPlace is working to lead the effort to end homelessness for unaccompanied women through housing solutions and empowering wrap-around services that provide a path towards personal self-reliance.

We envision an Orange County where every woman in need is safely housed, empowered, and on a path to personal stability.

We keep women SAFE. Our participants' safety comes first above everything else.
We INSPIRE our women to believe in themselves and their abilities.
We provide a SUPPORT system because we are stronger together.
We EMPOWER women and instill a renewed sense of hope.
We operate with INTEGRITY and hold ourselves accountable to best serve our participants.


WISEPlace transforms the lives of over 300 women each year, by providing safe emergency and transitional shelter, healthy meals, financial-empowerment workshops and employment assistance. Women in the program are led through the WISEPlace Way which includes:

- Safe Shelter appropriate clothing, and healthy nourishment
- 1:1 Case Management & Counseling by licensed counselors and psychiatrists
- Goal Creation for personal and housing needs
- Employment Assistance - Resume development, interview preparation, and professional clothing
- Health & Wellness - Proactive support to stabilize health and wellness and to secure access to medical services
- Socialization activities such as yoga, art healing and bingo, promoting socialization and overall well-being
- Addiction Recovery - Interactive support groups, led by a licensed facilitator, to overcome addiction (e.g., drugs, alcohol, gambling, over-eating)
- Financial Planning - Financial literacy, budgeting, personal savings, and taxes
- Housing Assistance - Housing plan backed by supportive resources like rental deposits, moving fees and home furnishings
- Graduation into sustained housing and personal self-reliance

WISEPlace has transformed the lives of over 8,400 women. Annually we serve 320+ women through our emergency and transitional shelter programs.

Our transitional program Steps to Independence is 34-bed a 3-month, 3-phase transitional living program where women (on average) stay 6 to 8 months at a time.

Positive Step House, provides bridge housing where women can live up to 6 additional months after completing the transitional program. Positive Step House is located in a residential neighborhood, and has capacity for eight women at a time. They pay nominal rent amounts and is seen as an extension of Steps to Independence for women who have been chronically homeless and/or have an additional barrier.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our services and organization. When the pandemic first broke out, we immediately went into triage mode implementing CDC recommendations of social distancing, installing sleeping barriers in our communal living spaces, spreading staff and clients throughout the facility, moved our most vulnerable clients to offsite locations (e.g. motels), donning PPE, installing hand washing and sanitizing stations, creating isolation rooms for those who were in need, required temperature checks, terminated all unnecessary on-site foot traffic and our volunteer program. This had a great financial and programmatic impact on our organization.

While we were in survival mode early on, around summertime we started developing strategic community partnerships and creative service delivery to meet the needs of our clients. We were able to shift workshops, AA/NA meetings, therapy/counseling, healthcare, and social interaction activities virtually. We have adapted case management and other services to be responsive to client needs. With job loss, lack of housing, and feelings of isolation, our clients needed additional support to help them with the transition process.

To date, we are the only emergency shelter in Orange County without an outbreak of the virus.

Despite these impacts, we were able to offer the same quality services we have for the past 95+ years. We strategically served less women than normal so that we were able to keep them safe and healthy but were able to maintain our rates of those who transition to permanent housing.

- 100% of women who exited gained or maintained employment and were linked with resources like health and social benefits.
- 85% of women who exited our transitional program moved into a permanent housing destination and 13% moved into an appropriate second step or temporary situation.
- 74% decreased their use of drugs and/or alcohol.
- 68% left with money saved for their future and on average, were earning $1,377 more per month than when they entered.
- 24% reported a decrease in their mental health symptoms.

As we continue to navigate the "new normal" with the pandemic, we are seeking innovative and effective ways to utilize partnerships and programming to best serve the women in our community.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Paper surveys, Case management notes, Community meetings/Town halls, Suggestion box/email, Grievances,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve,

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board,

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don’t have the right technology to collect and aggregate feedback efficiently, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, It is difficult to get honest feedback from the people we serve,

Financials

WISEPlace
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

WISEPlace

Board of directors
as of 9/28/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Meg O'Toole

Philanthropist

Term: 2019 -

Brateil Aghasi

WISEPlace

Nancy Gray

Pacific Mercantile Bank

Michele Ryan

Philanthropist

Eileen Padberg

Consultant

Amber Omran

Elite Hathaway

Kristen Zampa-Dawson

Behavioral Health Technician

Meg O'Toole

Philanthropist

Nicole Morse

Hilmann Consulting LLC

Ashleigh Aitken

Aitken, Aitken, Cohn

Traci Shirachi

The Mark USA, Inc

Lisa Cowan

Marina Landscape

Matt Bailey

UCI Paul Merage School of Business

Ria Carlson

UC Irvine

Tim Johnson

JLK Rosenberger LLP

Danielle Gutierrez

Bank of the West

Eric Bell

Bell Insurance Solutions, Inc.

Cathy Solomon

OneDigital

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Not applicable

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 06/22/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Multi-Racial/Multi-Ethnic (2+ races/ethnicities)
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 02/04/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.