Growing up in the Newport Beach neighborhood of Newport Heights, Natalie Duthoy recalls frequently seeing homeless people in her hometown and throughout Orange County.
Typically, they’d be standing on freeway ramps and street corners, holding up signs asking for money.
“My mom would be driving and I’d always ask her, ‘Mom, mom, can we give them something?’” Duthoy recalls.
“And she’d always say, ‘Yes.’”
Back then, Duthoy only could afford to give a homeless person a buck or two — or a just-purchased burger.
These days, the 25-year-old, who with her mother, Cheryl, operates a residential real estate business, Dream Team Homes in Newport Beach, is in the position to do a lot more to tackle homelessness, which has become one of Orange County’s most pressing societal issues.
Earlier this year, Duthoy started the process of forming a nonprofit, Dream Team Homes Foundation, to steer much-needed funds toward the homeless problem.
In what Duthoy believes is a first in the home-selling industry, she and her mother donate a portion of every commission they earn to the foundation, whose mission is to get homeless people into permanent housing.
“If people can’t get shelter,” Duthoy says, “they can’t be their best selves.”
To that end, the Dream Team Homes has formed a partnership with another O.C.-based nonprofit that helps the homeless, the Illumination Foundation.
Based in Orange, that nonprofit’s mission is to break the cycle of homelessness through targeted, interdisciplinary services. To date, the Illumination Foundation has provided 19,000 “bed nights” to the most vulnerable homeless families and individuals.
“It comes from God, and my mom helped nurture it,” Duthoy says of her desire to help others who are less fortunate than she and her extended family of about 80 traditional Italian Roman Catholics, most of whom live locally.
Duthoy and her mother are parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach. They both usually go to Mass at 5 p.m. on Sunday, followed by dinner with Natalie’s grandmother, Lucille Patitucci.
The “Dream Team” name was inspired by Lucille, Natalie says.
“She would say ‘sweet dreams’ to my mom every night before she went to sleep, and my mom would say the same to me,” she says.
“Now, we want to help people have sweet dreams in their new home.”
Altruism may not be the first attribute that comes to mind when one thinks of “Orange County real estate agent.”
Big homes — and big commissions — usually pop up.
Duthoy, a licensed realtor for four years (her mother has been licensed for more than three decades), is determined to change that stereotype.
“There’s so much money in the real estate business, especially here in Orange County, where the median home price is around $700,000,” Duthoy says. “I thought this would be a great way to help (homeless) people out. The real estate industry is so untapped for this type of concept.”
Cheryl isn’t surprised at her daughter’s entrepreneurial ways — or her philanthropic drive.
When the family would vacation in Lake Tahoe, young Natalie would run her spa “business.”
Also when younger, she operated a dog-walking business.
“She always had a mind for business,” Cheryl says. “When she was young, when her friends would come to the house, she would always want to make sure everybody was having a good time. She always wanted to be inclusive of all.”
A graduate of Newport Harbor High School, Natalie earned an MBA from Marymount California University in Rancho Palos Verdes in August 2016 — two years into her residential real estate career.
“I’ve always really enjoyed business,” says Duthoy, stressing that the business of buying and selling homes has a lot to do with building relationships.
“I feel like if you know people, you know business,” adds Duthoy, who minored in psychology.
A few years ago, when Duthoy was shopping around for which real estate brokerage she wanted to operate Dream Team Real Estate out of, she knew right away when she walked into Harcourts Prime Properties, at Newport Center, that she had found a winner.
“When I walked in, I saw Scripture on the wall,” Duthoy recalls.
It was Psalms 127:1: Unless the Lord builds the house, the Builders labor in vain.
Illumination Foundation CEO Paul Leon says he’s proud of the partnership with the Dream Team Homes Foundation.
“The passion we both have for working with the homeless population, combined with our respective expertise in housing, creates a dynamic combination for innovative and effective solutions to this social crisis,” Leon says.
Duthoy is working on a business model that would allow other Realtors to piggyback on her crusade by becoming Dream Team Homes Ambassadors. They would do so by committing to donate a minimum of $500 from each commission to the Dream Team Homes Foundation.
“I know there are people out there that have a lot of money and want to help make a difference,” she says. “If you want to help, we’re here. There’s a way.”
Adds Duthoy: “When you see a Dream Team home sign in your front yard, you’ll know you’re not just selling a house. You’re supporting the cause to end homelessness.”