Many people wonder what they can do to help their homeless neighbors, but feel at a loss for what to offer. Sharing a meal is an incredible service that helps someone to make it through another day, but our neighbors still need a long-term solution that will change the course of their lives. 

Those who wish to have a deeper impact on a neighbor’s life may be interested in the future of an new pilot program approved by L.A. County last year. The program provides $550,000 of funding for the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), or small, secondary units located on a residential property. These are basically small backyard homes or converted garages on the properties of participating L.A. County homeowners. In addition to providing funding, the program helps to streamline the permit approvals process and provide technical assistance to homeowners in the design and creation of the units. With the help of these and other supportive services, participating individuals can create a new home that is safe and sustainable for both host and guest. 

Residents of the units are specially selected individuals or families who are ready to move into permanent housing. They allot 30% of their earnings, plus additional low-income vouchers, to pay rent on the home and receive case management, job training, and counseling services.

The program initiates a community support system that helps transition our vulnerable neighbors into new lives. The homes provide safety and stability which are two critical steps on the path out of homelessness. The program also addresses each resident’s unique needs, helping them to continue to move past other major barriers in their lives. And not insignificantly, being accepted into another’s home has an immeasurable impact that can shape the course of a person’s future.

Our vulnerable neighbors are already part of our shared community. Homeless individuals and families live alongside us on our park benches, in our parking lots, on the street corners near our homes. If we can bring our neighbors a little closer to us, we can help them to stand tall with us as strong community members, thriving together.

Entry to the pilot program is closed, but if it proves successful, tens of thousands of homes in the county may be eligible. For a deeper dive into the ADU pilot program check out this piece in Business Insider.

If you’d like to take a more active role in the lives of our homeless neighbors, consider joining United Way’s Everyone In™ coalition or donating to United Way’s work. Visit EveryoneInLA.org and UnitedWayLA.org for more information.

Banner image: Winning ADU design entry by Lilliana Castro, Allen Guillen, and Cheuk Nam Yu