Last Thursday, I sponsored the East Valley Town Hall on Homelessness at Los Angeles Valley College in Valley Glen. More than 400 of my constituents came to discuss the defining issue of our time.
In Los Angeles alone, there are more than 34,000 homeless individuals, and 75 percent of them lack shelter. To put things in perspective, only four percent of the homeless population actually lives in Council District 2, but that relatively small number doesn't take away from the need to resolve the crisis.
Homelessness isn't confined to our city, it stretches throughout the entire county. It is a crisis for those who lack a roof over their head, food and a place to clean up, and it is a crisis for our neighborhoods where we feel the impacts of people living where they shouldn't have to live -- on our sidewalks and in our parks.
At the Town Hall, representatives of various agencies and non-profits offered their insights on what's happening in the fight to end homelessness, including about specific programs and strategies, the challenges they face and how community members can get involved. We heard from Valley College President Dr. Erika Endrijonas about her students' struggles with homelessness. Moultrie Potter, a young chef who fell into homelessness after his parents died, discussed how the local non-profit the Village Family Services connected him to programs that got him off the streets and back on his feet.
Our panel of experts discussed what their organizations are doing to chip away at homelessness and then answered dozens of questions submitted by people at the event. Panelists included Peter Lynn, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority or LAHSA; Jerry Ramirez, Manager of LA County's Homeless Initiative; Meg Barclay, the Homeless Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles; John Horn, Chief Impact Officer with the non-profit service provider, LA Family Housing; LAPD Commander Dominic Choi; Gita O'Neill, Director of Homelessness Policies and Strategies with the LA City Attorney's office; and Gonzalo Barriga, Senior Environmental Inspector with LA Sanitation's Clean Streets Program.
Each expert got down to the nitty gritty of what the city and county are doing to alleviate homelessness. They discussed why it's so tough to remove homeless encampments, what legal restrictions the city faces when dealing with the homeless in parks and RVs, how the LAPD is protecting neighborhoods and assisting people in need, what Los Angeles is doing to build more permanent supportive housing and shelters -- like the Crest Apartments in Van Nuys -- and much more.
Before we ended, I urged people to volunteer at an upcoming Homeless Connect Day sponsored by my office and appealed for people to embrace the Safe Parking Program that we'll soon implement in Council District 2. Under the program, the city partners with places of worship and local businesses to designate overnight parking locations for the homeless; thus, removing these vehicles from neighborhoods and local streets.
Much of the feedback I received about the Town Hall has been positive. By and large, people appreciated the information and opportunity to get answers to their questions from those who deal with this issue day in and day out.
If you missed the town hall or want to re-watch it, you can do so by clicking here.
And if you have additional comments or want to get involved with our efforts to end homelessness, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 818.755.7676.
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