I used to work at the Skid Row Housing Trust (also known as “the Trust”) which is a nonprofit owner and developer that provides permanent supportive housing for people who have experienced homelessness, prolonged extreme poverty, poor health, disabilities, mental illness or addiction.
The Trust strives to
- provide homes that are affordable and
- provide the help needed to permanently break the cycle of homelessness.
The Trust has been combatting the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles for over 28 years and I am part of the Real Estate Development (RED) team as an Assistant Project Manager. I work with architects, consultants, contractors, public and private investors to create more homes.
1. What is most challenging working in this field?
Honestly, it’s the immensity of the issue. It isn’t just an economic crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis. Homelessness is not just a mouthful to say, but it’s also something that cannot be addressed overnight. Which might be exactly why so many Americans constantly turn a blind eye to the issue.
On May 31st, 2017, The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released its 2017 Homeless Count results and quite frankly, the numbers are heartbreaking: an estimated 58,000 people are now homeless in Los Angeles, a whopping 23% increase from 2016. As someone who works in an organization that has the bottom line mission to end homelessness, it makes me wonder “what’s the point?”. Rising housing costs and stagnant wages across the County means that so many Angelinos are one step, one crisis away from living on the streets and joining the thousands already there.
But one thing I learned very early on is that we have to celebrate the small wins because it is a process. On June 1st, 2017, a day after the 2017 Homeless Count was announced last year, the Trust celebrated the grand opening of the organizations’ newest property, Crest Apartments, that will house 64 formerly homeless individuals with high health needs – 23 of whom are military veterans. These 64 residents are among the 14,000 homeless individuals housed throughout the County last year. It might be a small win, but it’s still a win. And we’ll take it.
2. What can the average citizen do to help end homelessness?
With such low voter turnout in local elections, just reading up on the current issues and voting in favor of upcoming ballot measures and propositions in the City and County of Los Angeles would help so much. As sad as it seems, homeless individuals and families do not have a voice like the rest of us. Therefore, we should speak up for them, represent our fellow brothers and sisters, and create that platform for them to be heard. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” – Proverbs 31:8
Be A Good Neighbor
Be that good neighbor, good Samaritan and show love to those in need. This can look different for every person. It can mean volunteering at a shelter on Skid Row, passing out meals on Skid Row with local organizations, collaborating with local nonprofits, or simply striking a conversation with that middle-aged man who’s always stationed outside your bus stop and treating him just like how you would treat any of your friends. That in itself will go a long way.
3. What is most exciting about how there is more focus on this social issue in LA?
In late January on this year, 14 mayors from U.S. cities partnered with business leaders and philanthropic organizations to launch a new coalition called Mayors & CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment. This group hopes to collaborate and guide HUD to make sure cities don’t lose federal dollars and push for innovative ways to fund affordable housing. It’s no surprise that Mayor Garcetti is 1 of the 14 mayors, and the affordable housing industry in Los Angeles is experiencing a surplus of funding commitments for this particular issue. The amount of press and attention this issue has been quite exciting.
The public perception of supportive housing has been changed all thanks to the partnerships built in the affordable housing development industry. Whether it is with renowned architects that design beautiful apartments and community spaces or service partners who commit to serving the residents of these affordable homes, this collaboration between industries has slowly cultivated reconnection, healing, and dignity to the formerly homeless individuals of Los Angeles.
There is a growing public curiosity towards Housing First, a model that Skid Row Housing Trust and a handful of other developers in Los Angeles began piloting in the early 2000s. This movement is now a nationally recognized best practice for serving homeless individuals that were once labeled as the “unreachable”.
4. How do you see your work as part of restoring God’s kingdom?
I am blessed to be working in a field that strives to reach the unwanted, the lost, and unreachable. This aligns with God’s command to care for the poor and vulnerable populations. We work to literally put a roof over the heads of so many whom currently live under tents, blankets or nothing at all. I’ve been so blessed to have stumbled across this industry four years ago, a field where I can show love to these people who are undoubtedly God’s children. On a daily basis, my job is to encourage collaboration, partnerships, alliances and relationships between professionals from an array of fields to pursue our mission to house more individuals. And God’s kingdom is about the relationships, and partnerships; the connections between one another.
And of course in the office and in the field, I have come to realize that being a person that emulates God’s love and compassionate heart will go a long way. Because this field is not a set 9 to 5 job where you can just leave work at work, many times burnout happens and negative energy in the team and organization seem unavoidable. Just to be there for a fellow co-worker or even a resident at one of my buildings can go a long way. I personally feel that ever since I started this job, the work that is constantly highlighted is obedience. I hope to obey God’s vision whatever that might be and whatever it takes.