Sydney Weisman’s passions include performing and ending homelessness. On Saturday, February 9th, she will combine her work as a homeless advocate with her love of song by performing “Little Miss Broadway at 70″ with all proceeds benefiting Home For Good. For more information on this performance, including ticket options, visit sydneysings.eventbrite.com.
What do you love the most about performing?
Gee, I’ve never actually thought about it. I’ve been performing for so long, I think it’s probably second nature. I’m not sure anyone who performs can express exactly why they want to do it, but the closest I can come is to say it’s a lot of fun and I’m thrilled to share wonderful, beautifully written songs. It’s actually a privilege that I get to do this.
Who is your favorite performer and why?
Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee. He was the first in popular American music to really understand that the lyrics are the song and give them the weight they are meant to have. Ms. Lee was a consummate musician who also wrote great lyrics, was a uniquely inventive arranger and wonderful story-teller when she sang.
How do you prepare for a big performance?
Well, some of that could be trade secrets, but my musical director, Wayne Peet, and I rehearse for hours on end. That’s actually the best part of performing, rehearsing. That’s where the real creative elements happen. I’ve told folks that if I never performed again but rehearsed and got to work with the guys for the fun of it, that’d be ok with me (the guys are our jazz band). Of course, once we had all the material, we’d have to do something with it, so performance is really the gift we get for the rehearsing.
Why are you donating the proceeds from your concert to Home For Good?
We are very close to Home For Good. My husband, David Hamlin, has been on the LA Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness, they created the Home for Good Campaign. David and I have been involved with the issues of homelessness for many years through our professional lives – if we can help in a small way to change the shameful reputation LA has of being the homeless capital of the country, then “Sydney Sings! Little Miss Broadway at 70” will be all we hoped it will be.
The following was submitted to the Los Angeles Times on April 10, 2012 in response to Ann M. Simmons’ “L.A. County gives some homeless convicts priority in housing,” and has yet to be published.
The change in regulations governing County support for homeless people on probation and parole seeking low income supportive housing does not, as your coverage implies, provide an advantage to those who have committed crimes. Rather, it is a sound solution for the homeless capital of the nation. It will effectively reduce crime and taxpayer expenses in our region, while efficiently helping solve homelessness.
Los Angeles County was the only Housing Authority among the 20 largest in the country that banned homeless people on probation or parole from its program. Last week, the Supervisors took the important step of removing this restriction. There is still a 2-year criminal record check, and it excludes participants with the most serious offenses from the program.
The Home For Good Task Force joined 4 of 5 Supervisors to support this change because when we move people off our streets into safe, stable housing with supportive services, law enforcement, court and post-conviction supervision costs go down.
Ultimately, we have a choice: we can perpetuate our shameful distinction as the homeless capital of the nation, while wasting millions of taxpayer dollars sustaining their lives on the streets, or we can do something about it. We applaud our County Board for taking a giant step forward for the Los Angeles region.
Renee White Fraser, PhD
Co-Chairs, Home For Good Business Leaders Task Force
Help us celebrate the accomplishments of the first year of Home For Good! On February 23rd, we will host the Home For Good Summit to celebrate our first year and launch year two. At the Summit, we will recognize the individuals and organizations in Los Angeles County which have made major strides in advancing the initiative’s mission, and we need YOUR vote!
Awards will recognize an individual or organization in each of five categories:
TRAILBLAZER – leading the way with new and innovative strategies in ending chronic and veteran homelessness.
CLIENT ADVOCATE – going above and beyond to advocate for the needs of clients.
YES IN MY BACK YARD (YIMBY) CHAMPION – challenging stereotypes, and championing solutions to homelessness among the general public.
PARTNERSHIP – two or more organizations forging a powerful new partnership to end homelessness.
HOUSING FIRST CHAMPION – successfully shifted to Housing First and champions the model in their community.
Who will get the awards? You decide! We need your help in identifying individuals and organizations/agencies that best embodied each category in 2011. Please consider individuals and organizations in the nonprofit, government faith, private, or philanthropic sectors and CAST YOUR VOTE TODAY!
Voting closes on February 15th, 2012 and winners will be announced on February 23rd at this year’s Home For Good Summit. For more information on the Summit, including how to register click here.
Subscribing to the Home For Good blog is a great way to stay informed about all the work taking place to end homelessness in Los Angeles County!
Home For Good uses its blog as a way to engage the public and keep them up to date on changes taking place in the field of homelessness. Every week, Home For Good posts a new blog to inform readers about work under the Home For Good initiative, new programs and policies affecting homelessness, and stories from advocates and clients. When you sign up to receive weekly updates from the site you will be one of the first to obtain Home For Good’s quarterly reports, which delineate the initiative’s progress towards yearly benchmarks established under the Action Plan. You will also have access to guest blogs written by experts in the field on topics ranging from no cost health insurance to local and national initiatives to house our most vulnerable.
While new blogs are periodically posted on Home For Good’s Twitter and Facebook, the best way to make sure you do not miss out on any posts is to sign up for email updates using an RSS reader. RSS readers are great! There is no spam or misdelivery.
The blog was started in early 2011 soon after the initial launch of the Home For Good initiative. Since its inception, 50 blogs have been shared with thousands of visitors. Visit www.homeforgoodla.org and sign up today!
Blog was written by Kerry Morrison, Exec. Director of Hollywood Property Owners Alliance and Home For Good Los Angeles’ Business Leader’s Task Force Member
On the second night of the Hollywood Homeless Registry, back in April 2010, my team member and I were deployed to walk the big block surrounding Hollywood High School. I remember feeling a bit disappointed that we were walking in such a well-lighted area, because I didn’t think we would find many (if any) homeless individuals to interview. I was really hoping we’d be walking along the freeway, or in a dark corner off of Santa Monica Boulevard.
Imagine my shock when we encountered a dignified elderly gentleman sleeping on a bus bench in front of Hollywood High School, on the NW corner of Highland and Sunset. He was wearing a pink athletic jacket and was sleeping sitting up – a truly uncomfortable position, both for airplanes and bus benches. I and my partner, Fabio Conti, owner of Fabiolus Café on Sunset Boulevard, approached him gently and woke him up.
“Hello,” I said. “My name is Kerry. We are out tonight walking up and down the streets of Hollywood hoping to talk with anyone who is homeless.” He looked at me with penetrating blue eyes as he struggled to come to an alert state. “I am wondering if we could spend a few minutes talking with you? We are trying to survey everyone who is homeless to figure out how we can help you.”
Right from the get-go, he assured us that he did notneed help.
Fabio and I looked around at the 4 a.m. landscape. It was chilly and damp. He had a bicycle parked nearby with big black trash bags draped from the handlebars. I sat down on the bench with my clip board. “Would it be okay if I asked you some questions? Could I ask you your name?”
“Helmut.” He said, with a crisp German accent. “I am Helmut Hermans.”
And so it began, the story of Helmut Hermans: how an 80 year-old man ended up living on a bus bench after being evicted from an apartment he lived in for over 40 years just a few blocks north.
On the Vulnerability Index, the instrument embraced by Community Solutions (formerly known as Common Ground, the catalyst behind the 100,000 Homes campaign), Helmut was #1 out of the 250+ we surveyed and photographed over that three night period. He was ranked as first on the list of those most likely to perish on the streets of Hollywood unless we could get him into housing.
Over the next two weeks or so, several of us would visit him almost daily. Mostly it was me, or our good friends at PATH, People Assisting the Homeless. As is the case with those who settle into their life of homelessness, there is a resistance to deviating from a life that has become somewhat routinized and predictable. I would say to Helmut, “Helmut…you simply cannotlive out here on this bench for the rest of your life.” He would chuckle and say, “you are so kind, but I have survived the winter, and now it will become warmer, and I will be fine.” I looked at 80 year old Helmut, and thought about my own father, who had just passed from melanoma six months prior at a similar age, and could not stop thinking for a moment about the parallels. Helmut didn’t realize it, but failure was not an option,and he had met someone who was bound and determined to bring him inside.
Fortunately, in Hollywood, we had the seedlings planted of a team that would grow to make huge inroads on matching people to permanent housing. I knew that if Helmut was willing, our dear friends at GettLove would bring him in off the street into a SRO hotel on Wilcox that could serve as a home-base for us to keep him stabilized, safe and under our watch until we could find an apartment.
And that is exactly what transpired. We found Helmut wearily pushing a shopping cart of his belongings at Selmaand Ivar one morning in May, and he was exhausted. (Think for a moment how you would feel if you had lived outside for eight months, sleeping on a bus bench through rain and cold, eating breakfast at McDonald’s and relying on the kindness of strangers for other comforts???) We surrounded him, myself, our BID Patrol officers and Sonny from GettLove and made him a deal: “how ‘bout if you just stay the weekend at the hotel to get some rest, and then you can leave and go back to your bus bench?” He thought about that…and agreed! Hurrah!
Clearly, there is more to this story. But the purpose behind this vignette is to acknowledge that our dear friend Helmut Hermans, born 81 years ago in Germany, passed away on August 11th of this year in his sun-drenched brand new apartment on Bonnie Brae Avenue (Helmut is pictured above in his apt. on Bonnie Brae in November 2010). I was in New Jersey visiting my son when Sonny from GettLove called me with the news. And all I could think about was this: how bittersweet was the end to this story? On the one hand, our friend Helmut had passed, but on the other hand, he lived 10 months in his own apartment with a south-facing window and a TV and a brand new bed and a place to make soup and store his vitamins (one of his hobbies)!
On Monday, October 3, 2011 at 10 a.m., several of us will gather on Highland, near the bus bench that served as Helmut’s home for nearly nine months, and acknowledge his life and his passing. Who knows how much the months sleeping on a bench accelerated his demise? We are grateful that he spent his final months inside. We are also thankful that we have a community that is coming together to do all that we can to restore dignity and hope to those who are the poorest of the poor on the streets of Hollywood.
This week, with the help of Fraser Communications, the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness released an animated PSA. We would love to hear your thoughts, so check it out and tell us what you think!
1. Why did you join the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness?
When I was getting my degree in Public Health at UCLA one of our requirements was to do a semester-long internship; mine was in the basement of a church across from campus with a small group of people who were just beginning to organize an emergency food and clothing program to help the homeless in their neighborhood. It was called PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) – an agency that now serves close to 2,000 people each month. While my tenure there was relatively short, it had a significant impact on me. Over the years I have watched with great admiration as PATH and other outstanding organizations have worked tirelessly to address the needs of our growing homeless population. But sadly there is still much to be done. When I was invited to join the Business Leaders Task Force, I saw an opportunity to once again become involved with this critical issue and put my energy toward being part of the solution.
2. You have been instrumental in starting the Home For Good Speakers Bureau. Tell us about it!
It’s great. Kent Smith and I head up this Bureau which is comprised of Task Force members who are extremely knowledgeable about our Action Plan and who can go out and speak to community organizations, boards, veterans groups, neighborhood councils and the like about Home For Good. When a request for a presentation comes in, we work to find the Bureau member who best fits the intended audience. So far the program has been extremely successful—our speakers have addressed a variety of groups and have sat on many interesting panels, and the feedback has been excellent. We welcome every opportunity to share with others our plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness, in a bold and cost-effective way, by 2016.
3. You have testified at the Board of Supervisors twice in the past few months. What’s your favorite part of those meetings?
Well, the performance by the mariachi band being honored the first time I testified was pretty special. You never know quite what to expect in these sessions…but I am here to report there is never a dull moment! On a more serious note, I do appreciate the fact that these meetings provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the Board and have their opinions heard. It has been gratifying to see the support the Supervisors have given to our plan and their commitment to solving this problem.
4. At 5 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh my, I can barely recall what I did yesterday, so that is really a tough one. Based on archival photos and footage I would have to say a ballerina (a great deal of time seemed to be spent in a tutu!!). Sometime later, though, I discovered my interest in health and human behavior and so that is the path I ultimately followed.
1. Why did you join the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness?
My agency and I have worked with homeless housing and service providers for a long time. It became clear that there had to be a more effective way to address the issue and the Task Force has done exactly that. I’m also committed to the notion that democracy thrives when people exercise their rights to generate change; the Task Force is democracy at its finest.
2. Tell us about your work at Weisman Hamlin Public Relations (WHPR).
WHPR is 25 years old. We believe that PR is a critical element in the marketing spectrum – it’s the best tool for delivering messages and ideas to the public at large or specific audiences. By design, we’ve always worked in the nonprofit, advocacy and association sector, where we bring marketing sensibilities to issues and causes. I spent a lot of time in the nonprofit arena, so I tend to focus on campaign strategies, tactics, messaging and implementation; my partner is a former journalist with exceptional news media instincts and sensibilities and our Associates have strong journalism backgrounds, too. We think it’s a good blend and we certainly enjoy our work.
3. What role do PR and communications play in ending homelessness through Home For Good?
To end chronic and veteran homelessness, Los Angeles needs a rock solid plan and the commitment to implement it.
We have the plan: Home For Good is built on best practices, it is thoroughly researched, its timetables are challenging but achievable and it has an enormous secondary benefit – it dramatically reduces costs.
PR and communications build commitment. The Task Force has to sustain a campaign aimed at diverse audiences – elected officials, developers, community groups, government agencies at every level, service providers and the public who support all those groups – to win their support and commitment.
4. If you were written about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?
I’d dearly love a headline that reads “Hamlin Takes Federer In Epic Five Set Match” but that’s probably not in the cards. I’ll wait for “Task Force Declares Home For Good Fully Implemented”
United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness held an unprecedented summit of over 140 Federal, regional, state and local leaders, including senior Obama administration officials, to determine the most effective ways to access and utilize public resources.
Below are the key recommendations from summit participants on the next steps for federal and local partners. What do you think of these priorities? Share your thoughts!
RECOMMENDED PRIORITIES FOR FEDERAL PARTNERS
ENDING CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS Summit participants called upon Federal partners to:
Direct local Public Housing Authorities to set aside housing vouchers for chronically homeless individuals.
Revise the formulas used to distribute federal homeless funding to include poverty, overcrowded housing, and severe rent burden.
Coordinate housing and service funding streams with a focus on permanent housing outcomes.
ENDING VETERAN HOMELESSNESS Summit participants called upon Federal partners to:
Allow a portion of VASH Vouchers to be used in permanent housing developments.
Allow VASH vouchers to be administered by local nonprofits.
Provide direction to local Public Housing Authorities on removing local barriers to utilizing housing resources for chronically homeless individuals and Veterans.
RECOMMENDED PRIORITIES FOR LOCAL PARTNERS
ENDING CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS Summit participants called upon local partners to:
Distribute joint public and private funding for capital, operating, and services for permanent supportive housing.
Regularly convene cross-sector stakeholders to continue coordinating work to end chronic and Veteran homelessness.
Set aside housing vouchers for chronically homeless individuals.
ENDING VETERAN HOMELESSNESS Summit participants called upon local partners to:
Integrate and align local public and private resources to end Veteran homelessness.
Increase regional collaboration between the VA and nonprofits to coordinate placement into available housing opportunities.
Centralize income verification between Housing Authorities, VA, and landlords.