Navy to reexamine ocean training after fin whales were likely struck by a visiting destroyer

Naval protocols for training off Southern California and Hawaii will be reviewed again following an investigation into the death of two fin whales found stuck on the hull of an Australian destroyer during a joint training exercise with the U.S. Navy off San Diego.

The Australian destroyer pulled into Naval Base San Diego in May with the two dead whales hanging off its bow.  The smaller whale, a calf, was disposed of in a landfill and the larger was dragged back out to sea off San Diego, but drifted for miles washing up at Bolsa Chica State Beach on May 19. The carcass was then disposed of in a landfill.

Biologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed with testing that the two female whales were related – likely mother and daughter.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, requested NOAA, the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of Commerce re-examine Navy training in the Pacific and put in place more protective measures for whales and marine life, threatening a lawsuit in its letter.

Recently, Navy and NOAA officials answered the center’s letter and agreed to reexamine their training protocols.

Officials with NOAA said that based on their “evaluation of the recent vessel strike incident involving the HMAS Sydney, and other relevant new information,” the trigger to reevaluate the Navy’s training in the regions off Southern California and Hawaii had been met.

The Navy has to meet strict guidelines outlined in a permit issued by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, which is tasked with addressing the effects of human activities on protected marine species under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. The permits, typically for five-year periods unless there is an issue and NOAA needs to reevaluate, set limits on how many animals can be killed or injured in a specific time period before training has to pause.

The Navy also agreed to the new review, saying it is coordinating with NOAA.

Navy officials said they employ various protective measures such as 24-7 lookouts who stand on the stern and aft of the ships to spot marine life and reducing power and speed when animals are sighted.

Sailors also stop active sonar transmissions when marine mammals are within a predetermined safety range and safety zones are established around detonations and maneuvering vessels. The Navy also limits training when it is breeding, migration and feeding times for specific species.

According to NOAA officials, the need for a new evaluation can arise if the number of whales or marine life killed or injured exceeds allowed levels, if there is information on how training could affect species in the area in a way that was not previously considered, or if there is a new species or critical habit identified.

Kristen Monsell, legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity’s ocean program, said she is pleased the two federal agencies have agreed to further study the training and how current practices may negatively affect the whales and marine life in the area.

“These military activities can wreak havoc on whales, dolphins and other marine mammals through explosions, sonar and ship strikes,” she said. “We hope this process leads to new mitigation measures like slowing ships down in important whale habitat. The Biden administration needs to find a better balance of marine protection with military readiness.”

The letter from the environmental group outlined concerns not only related the two fin whale deaths, but also included new scientific information regarding not only vessel strikes, but other sources of stress on sea life; it also suggested the Navy had expanded its activities and that there is a newly designated critical whale habitat at play.

Biologists with NOAA and the Navy are expected to develop new protocols based on various types of training and areas where the training may happen and decisions should be made within 150 days, per their standard protocols.

“The Navy could choose to adopt additional mitigation measures now and not wait for the new biological opinion, and we certainly hope they do so since endangered whales are at risk now,” Monsell said.

Monsell said her group would like to see even more safeguards put into place for whales and other marine mammals, including slowing vessels to 10 knots or less in important whale habitat areas and additional restrictions on the use of sonar and explosives.

Vessel strikes are a leading cause of whale deaths in California. In January, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the federal government, saying it failed to protect endangered whales from speeding ships, and the group filed a federal petition in April seeking a mandatory 10-knot speed limit.

Federal records document at least 26 whales killed by vessels along the West Coast from 2014 through 2018. Scientists say the actual number of vessel-strike deaths could be 20 times larger than documented since most dead whales sink.

But speeding isn’t the only problem the Center for Biological Diversity sees with the Navy’s training.

“The explosions and sonar used in the Navy’s activities are incredibly harmful to marine mammals,” Monsell said. “These animals rely on hearing for essential behaviors like feeding and breeding. If they can’t hear, they can’t survive.”

The Navy’s training, meant to be as realistic as possible, can include explosions in the water, torpedo tests, use of sonar and high-energy lasers, underwater vehicles and multiple ships moving around at once.

Since 2009, the Navy has had to secure permits from NOAA for its training.

Huntington Beach surfer Igarashi set to medal at first-ever Olympic surf event

Kanoa Igarashi flew to the air, spun above the wave’s lip and landed his board perfectly, the expression on his face looking as if he even surprised himself at the unbelievable move.

The Huntington Beach surfer, who is representing for host country Japan, was up Monday, July 26, against Gabriel Medina, a Brazilian known for his own aerial acrobatics that have earned him multiple world championships.

Igarashi needed a score of 9.03 to overtake Medina, who had dominated the heat since the start. The judges gave him a 9.33, adding to his 7.67 for a 17-point total – enough for him to win the heat and move on to the finals, ensuring he would take either a silver or gold medal before returning home to Surf City.

The waves were big and messy at Tsurigasaki beach as a tropical swell filled in.

Earlier in the day, Igarashi won his quarter-final heat against San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino, who was the last male remaining on the USA Surfing team.

In that heat, Igarashi earned a 12.60 heat total (out of 20), edging out Andino’s 11.00 score as their quarterfinal heat wrapped up on Monday, July 26, the third and likely final day of competition.

Igarashi and Andino grew up competing against each other in their younger years, both prodigies from a young age who would rise up the ranks to become the world’s best and go up against each other on the World Tour.

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Igarashi, a two-time US Open of Surfing winner who grew up surfing the famed Surf City pier, chose to surf for Japan because he has dual citizenship and wanted to pay homage to his family’s roots. In Japan, he’s a rock star, with a reality show that followed him around in his younger years.

After the heat, the two men met at the shoreline for a high-five hand shake.

Following the men’s quarterfinal heats, the women hit the water. USA Surfing still has both female surfers in contention, with Caroline Marks, who lives in San Clemente, and Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, both in the hunt for a medal.

Marks beat out Brisa Hennessy for a spot in the semi-finals while Moore won her heat against Brazilian Silvana Lima.

Surfing debuted at the Olympics for the first time over the weekend, with both men and women competitors taking to the water in small, messy conditions when the contest got underway.

Sunday’s action saw a match up between  Andino and fellow teammate John John Florence, of Hawaii, who also grew up competing against each other as youngsters on the amateur circuit and later as the world’s best surfers as they battled on the World Tour.

Andino was able to win the heat and was looking to be a strong contender for an Olympic medal, before Igarashi stopped his attempt.

Next in the water was Brazilian world champion Gabriel Medina, who took out France’s Michel Bourez, with a total score of 15.33. Bourez tucked into a barrel as the clock ticked down, needing a 8.61 to back up his 9.40 for the lead, but the score judges gave him, a 6.93, was not enough.

Medina’s fellow countryman Italo Ferreira earned a 16.30 to knock out Igarashi’s teammate Hiroto Ohhara, also a US Open of Surfing title winner, who had a 8.0 score and couldn’t earn enough on a last-minute wave to advance.

Watch it live: nbcolympics.com/surfing

Hawaiian surfer Moore earns gold for USA, Huntington Beach’s Igarashi medals silver for Japan

Hawaiian surfer Carissa Moore blew a kiss up to the sky before taking a victory lap, getting in a few last turns on a wild wave propelling her toward shore where she would be greeted by supporters celebrating her milestone gold-medal Olympic moment.

Hoisting Moore on their shoulders were USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse, of San Clemente, and Huntington Beach surf coach Brett Simpson – it was a moment of victory not only for Moore, but also a win for her Orange County team along for the ride, her Hawaiian heritage and young female surfers.

While surfing’s much-awaited debut in the Olympics happened on the other side of the globe on the shores of Japan, local surfers in Southern California had much to celebrate.

Huntington Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi, surfing for host country Japan, earned a silver medal.

And, San Clemente makers created the surfboards ridden by Moore and the men’s winner Italo Ferreira.

The three days of competition saw 40 surfers competing at Tsurigasaki Beach. A tropical cyclone brought the waves needed for the competition to run, but the final day on Monday, July 26, (Tuesday in Japan) saw big, messy and challenging conditions.

  • ICHINOMIYA, JAPAN – JULY 27: Italo Ferreira of Team Brazil surfs during the the mens semi-final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 27, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan on his way to winning gold. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

  • ICHINOMIYA, JAPAN – JULY 27: Carissa Moore of Team United States surfs during the women’s Gold Medal match on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 27, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

  • ICHINOMIYA, JAPAN – JULY 27: Kanoa Igarashi of Team Japan surfs during the men’s Gold Medal match on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 27, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

  • ICHINOMIYA, JAPAN – JULY 27: Carissa Moore of Team United States surfs during the Gold Medal match against Bianca Buitendag of Team South Africa on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 27, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan. Moore would earn gold for the first-ever Olympic surf event. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

  • ICHINOMIYA, JAPAN – JULY 27: Caroline Marks of Team United States surfs during the women’s Bronze Medal match on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 27, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

  • ICHINOMIYA, JAPAN – JULY 27: Carissa Moore of Team United States surfs during the Gold Medal match against Bianca Buitendag of Team South Africa on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 27, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan on her way to gold. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

  • ICHINOMIYA, JAPAN – JULY 27: Carissa Moore of Team United States surfs during the Gold Medal match against Bianca Buitendag of Team South Africa on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 27, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan. Moore would earn gold for the first-ever Olympic surf event. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

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The start of the finals day featured two Orange County men still in contention for medals, Igarashi and San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino. The two longtime rivals rose up the ranks together as young prodigies to become among the world’s standouts, but after a surf off Andino was knocked out and Igarashi made his way to the semifinals.

It was there Igarashi matched up with Brazilian Gabriel Medina, a two-time world champion considered one of the world’s best aerialists. The surfers went toe-to-toe on the waves, punting to the sky and turning above the lip, but it was one massive maneuver that earned Igarashi a high 9.33 to overtake his opponent.

But Igarashi would have no such luck in the finals, meeting up with Brazil’s Ferreira, the reigning World Surf League champion, who dominated the finals heat, despite a broken board at the start, and became the eventual gold medal winner.

Though Igarashi didn’t get the gold he was after, local surfers were stoked on his silver medal finish.

Along with finally watching surfing on the Olympic stage, surfer Artie Castro said he was stoked on Moore capturing gold for the U.S., and he was rooting on Igarashi, a two-time US Open of Surfing champ who is well-known among local surfers.

“Once it came to the finals in the men’s surfing and the US was not going to be in the finals, I was cheering for our hometown surfer, Kanoa Igarashi, and stoked on his silver,” Castro said.

Ferreira, in an interview with the International Surfing Association, talked about the gravity of his gold medal.

“All of my accomplishments have been important to me, but I think this Olympic Gold means the most because I was the first one,” he said. “But all surfers made history here. Every surfer has a piece of this gold medal.”

He talked about his journey to the Olympics from humble beginnings.

“I started surfing on a cooler top when I was a kid before I got my first real board and won my first event. Because of (my upbringing), I have a lot of passion for the sport,” he said.

For Bob Mignogna, former publisher of Surfing Magazine and former director general of the International Surfing Association, it was an incredible moment for surfing around the world, the ISA and medalists – but also the board makers, he said.

Ferreira rides boards made by San Clemente shaper Timmy Patterson and Moore has her boards shaped by San Clemente’s Matt Biolos.

“Those two helped earn the two gold medals,” Mignogna said. “San Clemente should be very proud of them.”

Moore, who has four WSL world championships and took gold by defeating South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag, said the scale of the Olympics felt so much bigger.

“Getting to share the sport with so many people that maybe have never even watched surfing was super special,” she said to the ISA in an interview. “It’s a big time for surfing to be recognized on this level.”

In addition to Igarashi and Buitendag’s silver medals, Australia’s Owen Wright and Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki earned bronze.

The inclusion of the sport was more than just a moment for the athletes who earned medals, but potentially a cultural shift for the sport.

Igarashi said the Olympics have sparked an evolution for surfers in Japan and other Asian countries.

“My dream one day is to use this boost to push more Japanese surfers, more Asian surfers, to be on tour,” he said. “Hopefully one day we have just as many top surfers as America, Australia and Brazil.”

For Moore, it was a moment to pay homage to her Hawaiian roots and surfing’s birthplace, speaking about gold medal Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku’s dream back in the 1920s when he was competing for surfing to be included into the games.

“I recently watched a documentary about him and really got to learn about his life, how he treated people unconditionally, with love and kindness. He brought surfing to many parts of the world, and it was his dream to have surfing in the Olympics,” she said.

Huntington Beach surfer Louis Rice, owner and chiropractor at Atlas Wellness Center in Costa Mesa, was stoked for Ferreira, who he helped recover from a hamstring injury during the US Open of Surfing in 2018, the same year the Brazilian went on to clinch the world championship.

But for the contest itself, Rice had mixed feelings about the sport’s debut. On one hand, it was amazing to watch the historic moment of surfing being an Olympic sport, setting a precedent for generations of surfers to come.

But the coverage, at least in the United States, was “absolutely atrocious, woeful at best.”

“It was a golden opportunity to showcase our sport, and the ball was not only dropped, it was crushed, stepped on, and decimated,” he said.

Then, there were the waves, poor-to-fair at best, a problem that wave-pool technology could solve for future events.

For surfer Joe Cohen, also from Huntington Beach, it’s a moment to think back to when he was a kid and people told him he was wasting his time surfing. Now, maybe that perception will change.

“To see how far surfing has come and what people are doing to earn a living while chasing waves is wonderful,” he said. “I am so proud of our USA surf team and all of the other countries competitors for representing our sport.”

OC’s Andino beats USA Surfing teammate in bid for gold

The winners for surfing’s historic debut could be decided by the end of the night Monday, July 26, with three Orange County surfers still in the hunt for a spot on the podium.

San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino and fellow teammate Caroline Marks, who lives in the same town, are still in the running for an Olympic gold medal. Huntington Beach surfer Kanoa Igarashi, who is surfing for host country Japan, is also in the running for a podium finish when the contest resumes.

Huntington Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi, surfing for Japan, is still in the hunt for a gold medal. (Photo courtesy of ISA/Sean Evans)

Igarashi and Andino are scheduled to match up  in the quarterfinals when the contest kicks off at about 3 p.m. — meaning only one of them can advance, the other having to say goodbye to their Olympic dreams. Though the remaining match ups are scheduled for Monday, the ocean is the ultimate decider and the finals could be held on another day if surf conditions don’t hold up.

Surfing debuted at the Olympics for the first time ever at Tsurigasaki beach over the weekend, with both men and women competitors taking to the water in small, messy conditions when the contest got underway. There was enough push from a tropical cyclone to hold the event.

Sunday’s action saw a match up between  Andino and fellow teammate John John Florence, of Hawaii, both who grew up competing against each other as youngsters on the amateur circuit and later as the world’s best surfers as they battled on the World Tour.

But this time, something else was at stake — the chance at a gold medal.

USA Surfing member John John Florence, of Hawaii, was taken out by teammate Kolohe Andino, of San Clemente, who is still in the running for an Olympic gold medal. (Photo courtesy of ISA/Sean Evans)

Andino bested Florence during their heat, fickle ocean allowing Andino to kick off the event with a 8.5-point aerial and a total score of 14.83 for his best two waves. Florence, however, couldn’t find a second score to back up his 6.77-point ride, leaving him without what he needed to advance.

“John and I are very honored to compete for the USA, and whether it was ankle slappers or big standup barrels, it was going to be an intense heat and really fun to watch — one for the history books,” said Andino in a recap interview with the International Surfing Association. “I haven’t done a maneuver like that in seven or eight months. I surprised myself.”

Both Andino and Florence are coming off injuries that required surgeries in recent months.

Florence noted he was “stoked” when he saw the draw, calling it a “fun challenge, a fun battle.”

“I would have loved to win a gold medal, but I am pretty happy just being here and surfing against the best in the world,” Florence said in the International Surfing Association release. “I am going to take what I can from my experience and learn from it. Hopefully I will be here next time. I would love to see surfing in many more Games in the future.”

During the two days of competition on Saturday and Sunday, some of the world’s best faltered and would have to say goodbye to their Olympic dreams, including a surprise early exit for Australian world champion Stephanie Gilmore, who lost out to South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag.

“I was in the first heat of the day, going against the seven-time world champ, so I had nothing to lose,” said Buitendag in an interview with the ISA. “Today things went my way. A lot of things had to align for this victory. I just decided to control the things I can – good wave selection.”

Surfing is one of the only sports that relies on Mother Nature to deliver – and a heat with lulls that have surfers waiting for waves could make or break their Olympic bid.

Though there was more swell on the second day of competition, it came with harsh winds that caused a delay in the competition. But when it resumed, the event saw some of the world’s best put on strong performances to take out their opponents.

The ocean delivered more punch on Sunday, enough for Caroline Marks, a 19-year-old Florida surfer who now calls San Clemente home, to earn the top total heat score of the day on Sunday, with a 15.33 score that allowed her to advance to the quarterfinals when the contest resumes.

USA Surfing team member Caroline Marks is still in the running for an Olympic gold medal. (Photo courtesy of ISA/Ben Reed)

“I’ve definitely thought about the runway of Olympic Games in my future, but right now I am just trying to enjoy this moment in history. It’s so cool to be a part of this,” she said to ISA.

Still in the running are Brazil’s Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira, both among the world’s best, as well as Australian’s Owen Wright, who had the highest men’s total for the day to advance to the quarterfinals. Wright’s teammate Julian Wilson was knocked out of the event.

But there’s also a mix of up-and-comers like Portugal’s Yolanda Hopkins and Peru’s Lucca Mesinas hungry to take home gold.

Competition will continue at 3 p.m. Monday with the Men’s and Women’s Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Bronze Match and Gold Match.

More info: nbcolympics.com/surfing

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Samaritan app lets you donate to specific homeless individuals in OC and LA

It shows their stories but not their full names.

And that’s enough.

While the identities of the homeless men and women is kept confidential, the sad truth of their circumstances is laid bare in a phone app operated in the palm of a stranger’s hand.

Then, with the ease of clicking over some cash via electronic services like PayPal or GoFundMe, the app makes it possible for those strangers to contribute to the homeless person’s specific needs or goals — bus fares, haircuts, a pair of shoes, job training.

And, just as valuable, if in a different way, the donors also can write notes of encouragement, like the one sent to a 35-year-old homeless man in San Clemente.

“Good on you, Jeffery, for sharing your story and giving the privilege to someone like me to open my heart and pay it forward. You’re not alone.”

  • The saying on the back of a Samaritan shirt worn by Jeffrey, 35, who is homeless, a client of the nonprofit, Family Assistance Ministries in San Clemente, who has a profile on the phone app, Samaritan, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The phone app, Samaritan, was developed by tech company in Seattle which lets users make donations on their phones to homeless clients of participating service providers. The money can be designated to go toward such necessities as food, prescriptions, transportation, bills, and even housing. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Liz Graham is a housing case manager at the nonprofit, Family Assistance Ministries in San Clemente, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Family Assistance Ministries uses the phone app, Samaritan, which was developed by tech company in Seattle that lets users make donations on their phones to homeless clients of participating service providers. The money can be designated to go toward such necessities as food, prescriptions, transportation, bills, and even housing. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A keyring sensor carried by a client is used in conjunction with the phone app, Samaritan, developed by tech company in Seattle, that lets users of the app know that someone is in their vicinity and that they may make donations on their phones to homeless clients of participating service providers. The money can be designated to go toward such necessities as food, prescriptions, transportation, bills, and even housing. The nonprofit, Family Assistance Ministries in San Clemente, is using Samaritan with some of its clients, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jeffrey, 35, who is homeless, is one of the clients of the nonprofit, Family Assistance Ministries in San Clemente who has a profile on the phone app, Samaritan, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The phone app, Samaritan, was developed by tech company in Seattle which lets users make donations on their phones to homeless clients of participating service providers. The money can be designated to go toward such necessities as food, prescriptions, transportation, bills, and even housing. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Trinity Carter is a housing case manager at the nonprofit, Family Assistance Ministries in San Clemente, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Family Assistance Ministries uses the phone app, Samaritan, which was developed by tech company in Seattle that lets users make donations on their phones to homeless clients of participating service providers. The money can be designated to go toward such necessities as food, prescriptions, transportation, bills, and even housing. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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The app is called Samaritan, a high-tech manifestation of the “who is my neighbor” parable from the Gospel of Luke. On this digital platform, the Good Samaritan neighbor can be anyone — near or far. In some cases, the homeless people being helped have a Bluetooth enabled device called a “Blue Beacon” that can act as a digital wallet to secure documentation.

It also can send an electronic alert to notify Samaritan donors that someone in their vicinity is on the platform. The app then can take the donor to the Samaritan profile for spur-of-the-moment assistance.

Since its inception five years ago in Seattle, a city with one of the nation’s largest homeless populations, the Samaritan app has come to two groups in Southern California — nonprofit service providers Family Assistance Ministries (FAM), in south Orange County, and Pathways to Your Future in Los Angeles County. Both are using Samaritan with some of their clients.

Though the app profiles are incomplete, there’s enough information about each recipient’s background and their specific goals to illustrate their individuality. Their profiles and any donated funds — labeled on the app as “community investments” — are tracked and maintained by case managers who help keep their homeless clients on a path toward progress, and provide oversight so the money is spent as intended.

To Bill Greco, the board member at Pathways to Your Future who brought Samaritan to the organization’s attention, the gift/investment is a two-way street, with potential for the recipients and the donors that goes beyond dollars and cents.

“People just kind of walk by these invisible folks on street corners not knowing what to do,” Greco said.

“(Samaritan) can help overcome the barriers many of us face in not knowing how to deal with this overwhelming issue.”

‘Walk with, not by’

Samaritan was started by Seattle entrepreneur Jonathan Kumar. His immigrant childhood exposed him to some of the struggles faced by the app’s homeless beneficiaries, and his experience with startups gave him the tech savvy for social innovation. Others on the team have dealt with similar issues, or grew up where homelessness is prevalent, said Eric Turner, who works as a digital storyteller for Samaritan.

A two-year pilot program in Seattle involved 500 homeless people. It ended with 56% of the clients improving their self sufficiency and with 52 individuals finding housing, a job, or both, Turner said. More than 15,000 anonymous donors (known as “team members” on Samaritan) contributed funds.

In addition to Seattle and Southern California, Samaritan also is being used in Portland, Oklahoma City and Denver, listing about 215 homeless individuals. The platform has raised $58,250 in those communities so far in 2021, Turner said.

The donors, according to Turner, range in age from 25 to 55, and they have distinct giving patterns.

“Older people tend to donate less often but in higher amounts,” Turner said. “Younger people have less money to give but are more willing to send messages of encouragement.”

The FAM project is fueled by a $40,000 grant from the Orange County Community Foundation. The faith-based nonprofit has a main hub in a San Clemente business park and two satellite offices in Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano, providing homeless prevention and intervention services to about 170 people in south county. The group offers a food pantry and help with utility bills, temporary shelter and other resources.

The organization has launched a pilot project of its own involving Samaritan and has five of the 15 recipients it expects to bring on board this year. They are a mix of men and women, although gender is not always clear from their Samaritan profiles — again, to maintain their privacy. Three have jobs, one is working on a professional certification, and the other is getting job coaching.

Who are they? Take a look at the app.

There’s ACooper, who fought a life-threatening kidney illness that left him unemployed and with thousands of dollars of debt. More bad luck followed: Getting t-boned by a car involved in a high-speed chase. It all left ACooper without housing and in search of employment.

Elizabeth K is a single mom with a toddler. They stay at a women’s shelter. She lost her job as a massage therapist because of the coronavirus pandemic and now she needs to be re-certified and insured to return to her profession.

Sun Seeker’s troubles stem from his wife’s 2017 homicide during a violent assault in Brazil. Diagnosed with PTSD and depression, Sun Seeker was living in his vehicle but recently moved into permanent supportive housing. His need now, according to the app, is basic furnishing.

RubyGloomSailorMoon is a single mother of two. A victim of domestic violence, she’s been homeless for two years but is trying to restart her life. She is looking for work and needs clothes to wear to job interviews. She’s also enrolled to return to school in the fall.

Jeffrey A., whose name is misspelled on the app as “Jeffery,” is a San Clemente native who lived much of his life homeless on the streets with his mother. He and his mother both abused drugs and alcohol, but Jeffrey has been sober for two years. He’s met some of his goals; finding a full-time job and saving for a car. But he never finished high school and wants to get his GED and further his education.

In recent weeks Jeffrey A. and his mother were living in his car, though FAM recently connected him to a housing program. Being part of the Samaritan app project “brings joy to my heart,” Jeffrey said, is eyes smiling above a pandemic face mask.

“It just encourages me to make the right choices, to keep going straight forward; every step in the right direction.”

He said he can only remember getting a similar hand up when he landed odd jobs as a day laborer. He’s used some Samaritan funds to buy what he called “interview-able” clothes, including two long-sleeve shirts, a pair of slacks, a belt and some dress shoes.

He likes Samaritan’s motto — “Walk with, not by” — but he also adds to it:

“Walk with integrity.”

Spreading the word

The goal for FAM is to connect 30 homeless clients to Samaritan over the next two years, and to develop a base of donors for each. The grant money helps pay for the extra time case managers spend working with clients and overseeing profiles and donations. The organization is hoping to bring in more donors by getting the word out to supporters, civic organizations and the community.

Elizabeth Andrade, FAM’s chief executive, suggests Samaritan has the potential to do two things — change lives for specific recipients and change broader attitudes about homeless people.

“This could turn some hearts, dispelling misconceptions that (homeless people) don’t want to be working,”  Andrade said.

“This is giving a very clear message that they surely do want to work,” she added. “And they want to be accountable.”

Pathways to the Future, founded in south Los Angeles some 30 years ago by a former homeless man, also began using the Samaritan platform in January. Today, it has 10 homeless people listed on the app and 50 donors.

Greco, the Pathways board member, said his group plans to bring about 200 homeless people onto Samaritan, adding participants from the skid row district of Los Angeles, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica.

The challenge, he said, is getting potential donors familiar with the app. Toward that end, Pathways will partner with Joy Ride, a bicycle tour and rental company in Santa Monica, to launch an awareness campaign about Samaritan that will run from August through October. The “Change a Life” campaign will encourage Joy Ride riders to download and make donations through the Samaritan app. Find out more at ptyf.org/join-the-samaritan-team.

“We’re totally committed. We’re staffing up resources to support it,” Greco said. “We think it’s a tremendous platform.”