LOS ANGELES — Nearly 10,000 people participated in the 11th annual HomeWalk Nov. 18 in downtown Los Angeles, raising more than $1 million to end homelessness, organizers said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Pro Football Hall of Fame member Eric Dickerson and United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik were among the speakers before the 5-kilometer walk/run at Grand Park.
The walk was organized by United Way of Greater Los Angeles in connection with its “Creating Pathways Out of Poverty” plan, whose goal is to end poverty and homelessness throughout Los Angeles County with a focus on education and financial stability, Buik said.
HomeWalk is United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ biggest annual fundraiser dedicated to ending homelessness in Los Angeles County.
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation matched every $5,000 a person or team raised with another $5,000, Buik said.
The HomeWalk raised more than $7.6 million in its first 10 years, helping to house about 18,000 previously homeless people, Buik said.
The walk coincided with the start of United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ #Yestohousing campaign, an effort to increase support for building supportive housing units to reduce the homeless population and prevent more people from becoming homeless.
The campaign’s goals over the next three years are to reduce homelessness by 50,000, build 2,500 supportive housing units which include services that help people overcome physical or mental health challenges and prevent 30,000 people from becoming homeless by providing rental assistance, transitional housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment.
The campaign’s goals are consistent with the projections for both Proposition HHH and Measure H, said Emily Bradley, the program officer for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Home for Good effort.
The goals “will not be easy to achieve but they are within reach if everyone — the public, homeless service providers, and our elected officials — stay focused and work together,” Bradley told City News Service.
The United Way of Greater Los Angeles began “Home For Good” in December 2010 in partnership with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Its initial goals were ending chronic and veterans homelessness in Los Angeles County by 2016.
“We made great progress towards ending veteran homelessness but ran into challenges getting critical resources from the [Department of Veterans Affairs],” Bradley said.
“Those challenges have been resolved but now unfortunately the funding for rental support for vets is at risk because of changing priorities in Washington, D.C. We must keep up the pressure and maintain focus on this goal.”
A three-night count conducted in January by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority determined that Los Angeles County’s homeless population was 57,794, a 23 percent increase over the 2016 figure, including 4,476 veterans.
“Our homelessness crisis is fundamentally our housing crisis,” Bradley said. “For too long, we haven’t built the right kinds of housing or enough of it.
For example, not everyone experiencing homelessness needs supportive housing, which offers full-time caseworkers. Some people just need rental support for a shorter period of time, but our apartment vacancy rate of about 3 percent makes it hard to find those units.”
Bradley said Proposition HHH — a $1.2 billion bond measure passed by county voters last November aimed at funding housing for the homeless and to fund facilities providing mental health care, additional treatment and other services — and Measure H, a 0.25 percent county sales tax hike to fund homeless services and prevention, puts the city and county at a “historic moment in the work to end homelessness.”
“For the first time, we have well thought out plans to end homelessness in both the city of Los Angeles and county and the funding to implement them,” Bradley said.
“But that’s not enough. We need focus and pressure from people across this city to make sure our leaders remain focused on the plans and supporting the permanent solutions to homelessness that we know work.”