This post is part of KPCC's "Season's Givings" series, chronicling volunteer experiences and opportunities during the holiday season. View a full listing of charitable organizations seeking help this season and let us know your holiday volunteer story!
On many city streets, it’s hard not to see homeless people struggling to get by.
But at Grandma’s House of Hope, founder Je’net Kreitneris says the goal is to help those people we don’t see.
She founded the Santa Ana-based organization in 2004 as a way to give back to the community that lifted her and her young son out of homelessness.
“What we do is work with what we call the ‘invisible population of Orange County,’” said Kreitneris. “We work with human trafficking survivors. We work with woman in their last days of pregnancy – some of whom are coming into our shelter with just a few days until they deliver. And we also work with motel children in Orange County.”
Kreitneris is seeing more and more families who can’t come up with first and last month’s rent. They can only scrape together enough to stay in a cheap motel.
They camp during the summer to save up. The rest of the year, a family of four lives in a 224-square foot motel room in Anaheim.
“The misconception about families living in motels is that they’re not working or they’re deadbeats or they’re hanging out in their rooms all the time when in reality most of these families are working two or three jobs, different shifts, and they barely see each other,” said Kreitneris. “The kids are left on their own or with younger siblings.”
On December 22, Grandma’s House of Hope is hosting a holiday party at an Anaheim motel.
The kids get presents and they also get to give gifts to their parents. There will be music, brunch, arts and crafts, and haircuts.
“When you’re living in a motel, Christmas gifts, parties and festivities for the holidays aren’t really a priority,” said Krystal Minniefield, volunteer recruiter for Grandma’s House of Hope. “The parents aren’t looking out for how the kids can have fun for the holidays. They’re looking out for how they can have a roof over their head for the holidays.”
Minniefield is still looking for dozens of volunteers to help with cooking, crowd control, and wrapping presents. says those volunteers are the key.
“We literally could not do what we do without the help of our volunteers,” said Kreitneris.
And now they need volunteers to help with cooking and baking. That’s because after the motel brunch, Grandma’s House of Hope will host a Christmas dinner at its women’s shelter. It’ll feature a jazz quartet, a visit from Santa ... and lots of food.