Business Leaders’ Task Force « United Way of Greater Los Angeles

BLOG: Business Leaders’ Task Force

Business Leaders Task Force Responds to 2013 Homeless Count

Every two years, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority leads the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. The 2013 Homeless Count was the largest and most comprehensive in the history of LA County, with more than 5,000 volunteers canvassing 4,000 square miles from January 29th to January 31st. Data collected from the count is critical to addressing the complexities of homelessness and planning how to best invest public resources.

Today, LAHSA released data from its 2013 Homeless Count. The report shows 58,423 homeless people in 2013 in the county, compared to 50,214 in 2011 – a 16 percent increase. At the same time, the data demonstrates notable reductions in the number of families and Veterans experiencing homelessness. These reductions are largely attributed to a greater targeting of resources.

Under Home For Good, the L.A. Leaders Task Force on Homelessness has committed to ending chronic and Veteran homelessness in LA County by 2016. To view an analysis of LA County’s Homeless Count numbers from 2005-2013 and the progress made under the Action Plan click here. Below you will find the Task Force’s response to this year’s Homeless Count.


L.A. Business Leaders Task Force On Homelessness Response to Homeless Count 

Los Angeles, CA — The co-Chairs of the L.A. Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness, Attorney Jerry Neuman of Sheppard Mullin and Chris Carey, CFO of City National Bank, issued the following statement in response to the release by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) of the results of the greater Los Angeles homeless count, conducted early in 2013. (The Task Force’s Home For Good Campaign to end chronic and veteran homelessness in greater L.A. by 2016 is in its third year of implementation).

          “There is some good news here. Homelessness among veterans, a population that Home For Good has targeted, has decreased significantly. That includes a huge drop in female veteran homelessness. And while the overall number of homeless individuals has increased, that is mostly due to a large spike in the number of “hidden homeless” – people who aren’t on the streets, but stay in garages or backyards or other spots that aren’t visible or easily detected. Home For Good has not targeted this population, but clearly this group needs further examination and attention from all those who are invested in ending homelessness.

While the Task Force is in the process of analyzing the data released by LAHSA, our initial analysis leads us to conclude that several factors contributed to the stagnation of chronic homelessness and the increase in hidden homelessness. One is the economic downturn or Great Recession, which we believe was particularly acute in driving the spike in hidden homelessness. Another is the influx of new homeless individuals, which was larger than anyone anticipated and will require additional resources to serve. Sharp reductions in California’s prison population, a reverse surge in which thousands of troops deployed abroad have returned to an economy lacking jobs and a mental health system which is overwhelmed all added to the higher count. 

One of the core principles of the Home For Good plan is the collection of reliable data about our homeless neighbors. To that end, we encouraged communities to participate in the 2013 count and they did so in record numbers.  Because the 2013 count reached farther and wider than any before, the numbers it reveals present a far more accurate reflection of reality. We will thoroughly examine the data released by LAHSA over the coming weeks.  Our analysis and the Task Force’s long term homelessness projections will be presented at our July 12th conference, where more than 300 partners will convene to discuss strategies for the year ahead.

          The Task Force continues to believe that a rational, cohesive and integrated system of data, services and housing will ultimately eradicate chronic and veteran homelessness.  We remain keenly aware that building and implementing that system is time-consuming and arduous.  We also know that changes already in place have produced strong results. Home For Good partners have housed more than 7,000 highly vulnerable individuals during our first two years; the homeless count would have been significantly higher if not for the comprehensive effort that was begun more than two years ago. 

          We continue to encourage our entire region to address homelessness effectively. We call on all who hope that our region will at last shed, once and for all, its designation as the homeless capital of the U.S. to join with us.”

Meet Singer and Home for Good Advocate Sydney Weisman

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

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.

To purchase tickets for “Sydney Sings! Little Miss Broadway at 70”  please visit

A sound solution for the homeless capital of the nation

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.

Dear Editors,

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.



Jerry Neuman,

Renee White Fraser, PhD

Co-Chairs, Home For Good Business Leaders Task Force

Home For Good PSA – Retired Vet

There are over 9,000 homeless veterans in Los Angeles County.

Home For Good is committed to making sure all of our homeless veterans have a place to call home. To read the action plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness in LA County by 2016 click here.

Who will win this year’s Home For Good awards?

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.


Start 2012 the right way! Subscribe to Home For Good’s Blog

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 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  

Helmut in his brand new apt. on Bonnie Brae. November 2010

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 not need 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 cannot live 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.

Home For Good PSA

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!

Meet Wendy Levin, Member of the Task Force

Wendy Levin
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.

Meet David Hamlin, The Task Force’s Communications Guru

Chair, Communications Committee

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”

All content © 2015 United Way of Greater Los Angeles