At United Way’s Sixth Annual HomeWalk, the entire Avila family, along with Door of Hope’s Executive Director, Tim Peters, had the amazing opportunity to meet and take a photo with NBA legend and Honorary Chair Kobe Bryant!
For years, the Avilas – like many Angelenos – found themselves struggling to pay their bills and enduring unstable living conditions. They contacted 2-1-1 and were connected to United Way partner Door of Hope, a transitional living program located in Pasadena. With their assistance, the Avilas were able to become financially stable, gain full-time employment and professional training and transition into a three-bedroom apartment where the family is thriving.
The all-too-familiar story of the Avila family is a reality for more than 51,000 homeless individuals across Los Angeles County, who thousands of people walked in support of at HomeWalk 2012. The success they’re now enjoying is a testament to the impact of services and programs driven by UWGLA’s mission to Create Pathways Out of Poverty, not to mention the truly attainable goal of ending homelessness once and for all.
On the morning of Saturday, November 17, while meeting and joining Kobe Bryant on stage for the HomeWalk opening ceremony, the Avilas and Tim Peters served to represent the hundreds of local service providers who are working tirelessly each day to solve this crisis, the individuals and families who have turned their lives around and, most importantly, those who are still struggling to find a safe place to call home.
Were you one of the 10,000 people who joined Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant at this year’s HomeWalk? Take a moment to enjoy this video recap of our Sixth Annual 5K Run/Walk to end homelessness at Exposition Park:
On Saturday, November 17, roughly 10,000 Angelenos came together in a powerful demonstration of their belief that homelessness is a solvable problem. Find out why these avid United Way supporters took part in its yearly 5K Run/Walk to raise funds and awareness of the ongoing crisis.
“This is my first year at HomeWalk and I’m here because I recently had an opportunity to visit UWGLA partner, Skid Row Housing Trust, and was really moved by the experience. I never realized how many homeless people there are out there and I wanted to show my support and appreciation for what United Way is doing!”
Chong Hill, ExxonMobil – Torrance Refinery
“I work at Bank of America - a proud contributor to the organization - and as a member of its management team, I wanted to lead by example. We have three dozen B of A employees participating today because we believe strongly in giving something back to our community.”
Francisco Nunez, Bank of America
“At Bobrick, we are happy to do anything we can to help advance United Way’s mission to end homelessness in L.A. County and to reach out to those in need.”
Chris Olney, Bobrick Washroom Equipment
“We’re walking to demonstrate how grateful we are for everything we have and because we wanted to contribute in some way to this worthy cause. It’s important to realize that these days, homelessness could happen to anyone at any time.”
Sylvia Reyes, Southern California Gas Company
“Participating in United Way’s HomeWalk is our way of making the community we live in a better place. We’re here to do our part to end homelessness for good – because no one should ever have to spend their life sleeping on the streets.”
Alex Cho, East West Bank
“United Way of Greater L.A. is one of the best organizations around when it comes to getting things done. They have such a focused initiative on ending homelessness and poverty in Los Angeles, which is exactly why I believe in and support them 100 percent!”
At 6:00 am on Saturday, when it began to rain, my heart sank. I thought no one would show up for HomeWalk, but they did. By the thousands. More than 10,000. The rain was even kind enough to give the walkers a slight break for a couple of hours while the walk happened.
Favorite moment before the walk: Going to Santee Educational Complex to pick up a stack of HomeWalk registration forms. I went into a huge homeroom bustling with activity – almost 50 kids. Their teacher, a super upbeat former ad executive, corralled them. They had gone to battle to see if the boys or girls could collect more coins to donate to HomeWalk. They presented me with two massive jars – about 15 pounds each – the boys won. Nice job guys.
The teacher privately told me that seven of the kids in that class were homeless. My heart sank…until…two students, high school juniors, helped me carry the coins to my car. I asked them what they wanted to do after high school. One confidently said, “I’m going to go to the University of Washington.” The other one said, “Princeton.” I asked if they had the grades for that. They both nodded confidently.
Favorite moments at the walk: Seeing so many of you dressed for the elements early on a Saturday, pumped up for the event; the LA Clash baseball kids and the Los Rayos soccer kids coming together to run; running the last half of the 5K with my son, Hopper; the El Sereno Middle School Marching Band playing the “Rocky” theme song at the finish line; the hundreds of volunteers withstanding the elements to make sure everyone had their t-shirts and a good time. It is hard to pick just one.
Favorite text after the event: “Woke up at 5:30 am, less than 5 hours of sleep, and steady rain outside. All I wanted to do was pull my blanket up over my head. I took a moment and thought about the homeless people that might be sleeping in the rain at that exact moment. I got up, dressed and walked out the door with a smile. I met the nicest people, enjoyed the walk, and was proud to be in the company of the HomeWalk volunteers. Life is good.”
That sums it up.
I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in, donated to, and made HomeWalk happen this year. Thanks to you all, many hundreds of men, women, and children will get off of the streets this year. A Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. There is much to be thankful for.
Brad Rowe is a graduate student in the Masters in Public Policy (MPP) program at UCLA. He is currently working on Education Policy at United Way of Greater Los Angeles as a Rosenfield Fellow.
On Saturday, November 17, United Way of Greater Los Angeles welcomed approximately 10,000 eager participants to Exposition Park for its Sixth Annual 5K Run/Walk to end homelessness. Take a look at a video recap of the event:
With Kobe Bryant serving as Honorary Chair for the second straight year and ABC7 Eyewitness News’ David Ono hosting the opening ceremony, HomeWalk 2012 proved to be the organization’s most high-profile event to date.
Other notable guests included County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Councilwoman Jan Perry and other elected officials as well as military veterans and television actors Jon Huertas from “Castle” and Mark Valley from “Body of Proof.”
Sponsored by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Wells Fargo, ABC7 and many others, the massive fundraiser featured dozens of information booths on UWGLA’s community partners, popular food trucks like Don Chow Tacos and The Urban Oven, not to mention an early morning address by Kobe Bryant himself.
Bryant emphasized the importance of teamwork and rallying family, friends and colleagues around such a worthy cause: “We understand the significance of being here,” he said. “It’s to inspire others to join forces with us to eradicate homelessness. Let’s embrace this challenge and let’s do it together!”
Funds raised by HomeWalk 2012 will go twice as far thanks to a generous grant from the Hilton Foundation which matches all contributions of $100 or more.Every last penny of the proceeds is to be invested in the development and implementation of permanent housing solutions for local families, military veterans and the chronically homeless.
According to UWGLA President and CEO Elise Buik, the sheer scale of today’s event was not only reassuring – it represented a huge step in the right direction.
“To have thousands of people stand up and say, ‘We will end homelessness’ is inspiring and a true testament to what is possible in our community,” she said. “With the help of a champion like Kobe Bryant and all of our participants, along with the public, private, nonprofit, business, government, faith and philanthropic sectors, we’ll be able to house countless homeless individuals. And that’s what it really comes down to: getting people off the streets.”
Years ago, Steve Hatter was one of 51,000 homeless individuals struggling to survive on the streets of L.A. County. But thanks to two local UWGLA partners, he now has an apartment of his own and serves as a Resident Ambassador – sharing his journey from tragedy to triumph with others. Read on to learn more about Steve’s amazing life and meet him in person at our Sixth Annual HomeWalk this Saturday!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 53 years old and originally from Oklahoma. I graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor’s in English and taught for a year as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana.
Explain how you first became homeless and how it made you feel.
I was severely depressed but had no community resources to call upon. I couldn’t afford to pay my bills and eventually wound up living in a homeless shelter for 18 months. It made me feel worthless, like I wasn’t a part of society.
What was the real turning point in your life?
One day, I came across a Diet Coke can on the ground, spun it around and watched as it pointed west – twice. So I hitchhiked from Oklahoma City to Fountain Valley, California where I was stranded for two days. I reached a point where I realized I was probably better off dead so I swallowed my blood pressure pills thinking I’d simply fall asleep and never wake up. Luckily, someone nearby saw me collapse, called 911 and had me rushed to the ER.
How did you finally get the help you needed?
After the attempted suicide, I was placed in a mental health unit which connected me to two wonderful organizations funded by United Way of Greater L.A.: LAMP Community and Skid Row Housing Trust. LAMP provided me with social services and SRHT provided me with an apartment at the Abbey hotel.
Discuss the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced.
Losing my eyesight – I’d always been nearsighted but as the years passed, I began to lose my depth perception and started tripping all the time. I was referred to the Braille Institute where I learned orientation, mobility and how to move around safely using a cane. The whole experience actually gave me a shot of self-confidence; I realized this was something I could deal with and learn from.
Why did you decide to become an ambassador for Skid Row Housing Trust?
I wanted to contribute to society. SRHT’s ambassador program trains residents to become spokespeople for what they do and I now have a chance to share my experiences with others. What’s most often overlooked about homeless individuals are our skills, gifts and abilities – homelessness takes away so much of our humanity, forcing us to become nameless, faceless statistics. I like to think that my gift is having the ability to share my views as a SRHT resident as well as the language skills to articulate them.
What are your views on United Way’s Home for Good plan?
We waste a huge amount of resources trying to manage homelessness rather than end it. The Home for Good plan, however, proves that it makes far more economic sense to offer permanent supportive housing than to fund costly social services. Its “Housing First” approach is based on the idea that you don’t have to earn your right to have a home. Instead, homeless individuals are welcomed with open arms, housed and stabilized before addressing substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Once we end this vicious cycle – what I refer to as the “hamster wheel of homelessness” – then we can finally solve this problem once and for all!
What advice would you give to someone who’s currently homeless?
Be patient. There are a lot of good people out there working hard to change your life for the better. I understand that, as a homeless person, being on a waiting list is incredibly discouraging but please don’t lose hope. I was once in the same position and now, I can open the front door of my apartment and see all of my neighbors, a beautiful courtyard filled with bamboo trees and finally feel like I’m home.
When we entered USC we were all told that we would be part of the force of the future. We would be the change we wanted to see in the world. We could “Shape the World.”
We all entered school with different experiences and different goals, but we will all leave USC with the skills and knowledge to make an impact. But change doesn’t need to wait for a diploma. WE don’t need to wait for graduation to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. Today we start to BE the change we want to see in the world by taking part in HomeWalk.
We walk in support of the community in which we live and study, our extended Trojan Family!
Today we walk to Shape our Community….tomorrow we work to Shape the World!
Yesterday, United Way staff and HomeWalkers spent the afternoon creating motivational signs and stringing thousands of keys to be handed at this year’s HomeWalk. A big THANK YOU to everyone that joined us! Click HERE to view some great pictures from the Sign-Making and Lanyard Party.
Why will HomeWalkers receive keys at this year’s event? Because HomeWalkers truly are the key to ending homelessness in Los Angeles! By joining us at this year’s walk, HomeWalkers are taking a stand against homelessness. They are letting everyone know that no one should have to spend a night sleeping on the streets of LA. They are raising awareness about the plight of over 51,000 individuals in Los Angeles County that have no place to call home. They are also raising essential funds to move our homeless neighbors off the streets and into housing. Join us at this year’s walk. Bring a sign letting other walkers know why you’re participating. You are the key.
This year’s 5K will take place on November 17th at Exposition Park. For more information please visit: www.homewalkla.org.
I wore a blue hand-me-down baseball jacket every day of kindergarten. From the sandbox to school and back, it went with me everywhere. My simple, blue baseball jacket was more than just a way to stay warm; it gave me the confidence to take on the world. It was my safety net, my sense of security.
Not everyone has this same sense of security though. Through volunteering and working in the public and nonprofit sectors, I have seen how minute the difference is between living securely and becoming insecure. For many families, one missed paycheck could mean the difference between having a home and being evicted.
In the last few years, I have seen the mounting insecurity in our community and the increasing number of individuals under financial and emotional distress. I have seen many hardworking people operating on stretched means and limited opportunities, finding themselves falling into poverty without a safety net to catch them.
This HomeWalk, I walk to rebuild lives and foster a more secure future for those in need. I walk to give others the same confidence and security that my little, blue baseball jacket afforded me.
KarmaGoat - a local startup that transforms people’s and corporations’ unused stuff into money to fight poverty – is doing its part to boost fundraising efforts at United Way’s Sixth Annual HomeWalk on Saturday, November 17.
Members of their staff will be on hand at Exposition Park to collect old cell phones and iPods from thousands of HomeWalk attendees and to issue receipts for these tax-deductible donations. 80% of the proceeds from their sales will go directly towards supporting United Way’s mission to end homelessness in L.A. County.
For more info on how to transform your unwanted electronics into permanent housing and supportive services for our homeless neighbors, please visit KarmaGoat.com.