Religious leaders agree to fight homelessness

LOS ANGELES — More than 100 religious leaders from Los Angeles joined Mayor Eric Garcetti July 20 and signed a pledge to help in the fight against homelessness.

“It’s on us to push through the fear and the misunderstanding on homelessness, and it’s on us to find pathways out of homelessness for our brothers and sisters,” Garcetti said at a news conference with the religious leaders standing behind him on the south steps of City Hall. “It’s on us to lead by example and change the fate of the least among us, and its time that we open our doors without fear to create safe spaces for everybody.”

The Days of Compassion initiative commits the faith leaders to enlist their congregations to participate in various efforts over the next four months, which could include hosting mobile showers in their parking lots, organizing tours of permanent supportive housing or offering day storage to homeless people for their belongings.

“Faith leaders share messages with the power to move hearts and open minds and their leadership empowers communities to make meaningful, lasting change,” Garcetti said. “Days of Compassion will give thousands of Angelenos a new opportunity to put their faith into action — by lifting up the most vulnerable, and pulling people together around the idea that everyone deserves to live in safety and with dignity.”

The initiative comes as city and county residents have approved billions in spending to go toward homeless programs and after the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count released numbers in May that found homelessness had jumped 20 percent in the city in 2016 and 23 percent in the county.

Measure HHH, which was passed by city voters last November, is expected to raise $1.2 billion to build housing for the homeless through a bond measure.

Measure H was passed by county voters in March and is expected to raise $355 million for homeless programs annually for 10 years through a sales tax increase.

“Scripture teaches that we ought to be careful to entertain strangers, for in so doing we may be entertaining angels unawares,” said Bishop Clement Fugh, presiding prelate of the Fifth Episcopal District of the AME Church.

“At no place are these words more appropriate than when spoken in the city of angels. Let’s be intentional and inclusive in extending hospitality.”

“The Days of Compassion initiative calls on the spirit of each person in Los Angeles to rise and expand to feel the pain of another person and to respond in a meaningful way,” said HarSimran Khalsa of Guru Ram Dass Ashram. “Those who respond will find that their own troubles diminish and their hearts grow stronger and more joyful.”

“Pope Francis has said that there is no social or moral justification for homelessness in societies with so much wealth and resources,” said Bishop David O’Connell, Episcopal Vicar of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region. “He also said that our parishes should be like field hospitals in war to respond to the needs of the broken and wounded. Mayor Garcetti is calling for all of us in L.A. to live up to the calling from our faith traditions and from our humanity to end homelessness in our city.”

Garcetti also announced his Housing Resource Matchmaker, a program that will match philanthropists or organizations interested in funding housing for the homeless with a mission-driven builder.


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