For the past week, the only part of the mural at the historic First United Methodist Church in Costa Mesa that passersby could see from 19th Street was the intriguing words “What Solves,” painted in purple hues on a bright blue background.


Until an unveiling ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 31 (2019), temporary fencing blocked the next word beneath that: “Homelessness.”


Now any curious soul can walk over to see all of what artist Brian Peterson created on behalf of Orange County United Way to support a seemingly simple idea. An arrow directs attention to another side of the mural, where a comfy living room scene and the words “Home Sweet Home” (fashioned to look like framed needlepoint) answer the question: a home solves homelessness.

The living room Peterson created includes a three-dimensional feature — a narrow steel bench bolted to the wall and painted to look like the seat of the couch. It can fit up to five people, invited to sit and ponder the issues raised by the mural.

The mural covers three sides of an AT&T server building in the church lot. The third side is painted to look like the front of a house, with a door slightly ajar — and a real mailbox that holds cards with information on United to End Homelessness.

The United Way commissioned Peterson, who paints portraits of homeless people through his Faces of Santa Ana project, to create the mural as part of its United to End Homelessness initiative launched early last year to house the chronically homeless.

Over the four days it took to finish the mural, Peterson was assisted by a couple of friends. Damin Lujan, a sign painter and woodworker who loves to create graffiti art, spray painted the “What Solves” side. Ned McGown, who once was homeless, helped with the base coat and cleanup.

On Saturday morning, about 150 people — local elected officials, homeless advocates and supporters of United Way, church congregants and community members — whooped at the celebratory moment when United Way staff moved a black curtain to reveal the mural. (Theresa Walker, Orange County Register)

“What Solves Homelessness” Mural

Project Website
Costa Mesa, California (map it)
Brian Peterson, Damin Lujan, Ned McGown
Other Involved Parties
Faces of Santa Ana, Orange County United Way
  • “What Solves Homelessness” Mural
  • “What Solves Homelessness” Mural
  • “What Solves Homelessness” Mural