A campaign aimed at changing residents' attitudes toward housing for the homeless in their neighborhoods got underway Friday with an event at Echo Park Lake attended by hundreds of people, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The United Way-led campaign, "Everyone In," aims to bring together leaders and participants in Los Angeles County philanthropy, business, labor and community organizations, and comes as both the city and county have seen dramatic jumps in homelessness in the last few years.
"Together, we have a real opportunity to get our homeless neighbors off the streets, out of shelters and into stable homes for good," said Elise Buik, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. "What stops us now won't be a lack of homes, but a lack of understanding of the issues and solutions. It's time to bring people together and form the public and private partnerships we need to get the job done. Everyone In is well positioned to do just that."
Although homelessness has grown, the city and county have massive new levels of funding to fight the problem, including Proposition HHH, which was passed in 2016 with the goal of raising $1.2 billion over 10 years in the city of Los Angeles for permanent supportive housing through a bond measure, and Measure H, a county sales tax increase passed in 2017 that is estimated will raise $355 million annually for 10 years.
According to the United Way, the goals of the campaign include organizing volunteers to advocate for approving supportive housing and other services in their own neighborhoods, tracking the progress of Measure H and Proposition HHH and celebrating progress that has been made.
"A year ago, Los Angeles voters dug deep into their hearts and wallets to pass both Measure H and Proposition HHH, giving us unprecedented resources to tackle homelessness," Ridley-Thomas said. "Today, we are building on that momentum and issuing a call to action. We need all hands on deck -- everyone in -- because we all have a part to play, as well as a moral imperative, to confront this humanitarian crisis."
Although the city and county have new levels of funding for homeless housing and services, opposition in certain neighborhoods has been strong. Just today, the Los Angeles City Council approved the installation of five trailers to shelter homeless people near the El Pueblo Historical Monument over the objections of some nearby merchants.
At a meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, the board declared today "Everyone In Day" and also heard from some homeless advocates who spoke about the challenges of local opposition to homeless housing and shelters.
Herb Hatanaka of Special Services for Groups, a nonprofit organization that provides services to mentally ill homeless individuals, told the board that neighbors turned out in force to oppose one SSG project.
"(We were) stunned by the intensity of the opposition to anything homeless and anything mentally ill," Hatanaka said.
Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles jumped by 20 percent in 2017 while the county saw a spike of 23 percent, according to the results of the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. In the city, the total number of homeless went up to 34,189 and the county number increased to 57,794.
"There is only one way to end the homelessness crisis -- together,'' Garcetti said. "Everyone In is about opening our hearts to Angelenos in desperate need, our minds to innovative strategies to get people off the street, and our neighborhoods to supportive housing that will keep people healthy, safe and in a home for good."