One day, my friend Jimmy and I delivered cans to a shelter and I met a man who said to me, “I am homeless here in North Hollywood and I am hoping things will change in my life.” It was so sincere and gentle. I realized that man is part of someone’s family. Growing up, I was never able to meet or know my mom’s father. I had only heard stories about him. He fell under hard times and eventually became homeless. After 22 years, my mom was reunited with her father, my grandfather, and we enjoyed 5-precious years before he passed. He had, through the help of resources, re-established his life, but lost touch with her because she had moved.
So many people believe that homelessness is defined by individuals sitting on street corners due to drugs or alcohol and, yes, there is that part of the population that we see, but there are so many unseen individuals and families. There is also the issue of how mental illness, loneliness and depression can eventually lead to self-medication. My age group to 25, in particular, are a growing population, as well as families (our future generation). No one says, “When I grow up, I want to be homeless.” Not everyone has given up on society; life events happen, lack of support happens, illness happens and there are many that are just one paycheck away from being homeless. Just like the saying,” It takes a village to raise a child.” It takes a community pulling together to make a difference in the lives of others; to create change. I believe HomeWalkLA can create resources of hope, like my mom’s father experienced and the man I met at the shelter. That resources create new beginnings and reconnect families -- a gift without a price tag.
Why do I walk? I walk to give others hope, a chance to start over and to encourage awareness of our growing population.
Check out Riley's documentary project, Hope For Our Own: An LA Story at http://hopeforourown.wix.com/hopeforourownla#
Sign up today for HomeWalk on November 23 at www.homewalkla.org!