“When passersby ignore homeless people, they don't know if that was a man or woman in uniform previously. They should not be invisible. They cannot be ignored.”
- Max Martini
Homelessness has reached disheartening proportions and has become Los Angeles' most pressing issue. With more than 455,000 homeless persons counted in the most recent countywide homeless count – nearly 36,000 of them within the city limits – both the City and the County of Los Angeles are continuing their unprecedented commitments to finding solutions to homelessness, to reforming long-standing practices of treating homeless persons and their possessions in a punitive manner, and to reducing the negative impacts of homelessness on our communities.
Homelessness amongst our armed forces veterans is particularly problematic and Councilmember Koretz is working with his colleagues and the Fifth District neighborhoods to improve the lives of those who have served our country so honorably. Having the West Los Angeles Veteran’s Administration Hospital grounds adjacent to the district sharpens the focus of efforts to serve homeless veterans. Councilmember Koretz has have been actively involved in the effort to reduce homelessness in our region since he was a member of the West Hollywood City Council back in the 1990s and he continues to be committed to developing policies, programs and long-lasting strategies which provide solutions towards ending homelessness.
Councilmember Koretz’s homelessness initiatives and proposals:
- Helped create the Hollywood facility for People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) which has provided shelter and services to thousands of homeless persons over the last two decades.
- Supported the City’s landmark Comprehensive Homeless Strategy to launch a ten-year plan to address homelessness issues throughout Los Angeles.
- Actively supported the passage of Measure HHH to finance up to thousands of new units of housing for homeless Angelenos and, as of summer 2019, is shepherding at least 98 units through the financing and approval process in his district.
- Working with Mayor Eric Garcetti and other officials to identify sites for housing homeless veterans, including a 100-bed "A Bridge Home" interim housing site on the WLA Veterans Administration campus.
- Working with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to target specific problems in the district and identify solutions.
- Working with faith-and community-based institutions to enhance community-based solutions to various aspects of homelessness, including the identification of one of the first low-impact "Safe Parking" locations in the city to provide vehicular homeless persons an appropriate place to park and sleep without impacting long-term residents.
- Working with community leaders and City departments to identify sites for additional "Bridge" and HHH housing facilities.
- Sponsored the creation of an eviction defense ("right to counsel") program to combat homelessness by helping tenants better cope with eviction threats and help both landlords and tenants resolve disputes more effectively, and successfully fought for start-up funding in the City Budget.
- Working with regulators, activists, developers, and other stakeholders to develop strategies and mechanisms to minimize the impact of new development on existing rent-stabilized housing and reduce tenant displacement.
SOUTH ROBERTSON NEIGHBORHOODS COUNCIL HOMELESS TOWN HALL:
Councilmember Koretz was pleased to give welcoming remarks to participants of this important event. The South Robertson Neighborhoods Council was among the first to call for the declaration of a homelessness emergency in Los Angeles and they continue to lead the way on this important effort. We truly need an “army of compassion” to help combat and conquer homelessness.
PARTNERING WITH UCLA “SWIPE OUT HUNGER” STUDENTS TO STORE FOOD FOR THE HOMELESS
"Swipes for the Homeless" started at UCLA in 2009 when a few students went into the dining hall and used their meal cards to purchase sandwiches and deliver them to homeless people around town. In a single week, 300 meals were collected. The team then partnered with UCLA’s Dining Services to allow students to donate their extra meal funds to provide 1,087 meals to community members. By 2014, they collected over 15,000 donated meals in a single week. Swipe Out Hunger has since been recognized by the Obama White House, Forbes, and the Case Foundation as a benchmark for positive change on college campuses and an emerging leader in the field of hunger awareness and alleviation.
Councilmember Koretz is proud to have partnered with Swipe Out Hunger early on. During one of the first quarters of its existence, the Swipe volunteers raised thousands of pounds of food for the UCLA Food Closet. But there was a problem, they had collected more food than they had storage space on campus. One of its founders called Councilmember Koretz who gladly opened his doors to Swipes and dozens of pallets of food into his West LA field office, then on Robertson. For months, Swipes stored water bottles, soups and other foods until they were given to local community members in need.
THE FIRST GREEN HOMELESS SHELTER IN LA
As part of my Decade: Climate Safe (2016-2025) initiative, I was pleased to be able to facilitate the launch of the first new Pando Populus Hub at the Natural Ivy Foundation. Natural Ivy aims to be the first truly green homeless shelter in Los Angeles. Pando Hubs push us toward a low carbon, ecologically-minded civilization. A Hub-warming is where folks from existing Hubs come and help create a new hub.
One of the less understood homelessness problems is that of college student homelessness. A recent Cal State University study found that, of the system’s nearly half a million students, 1 in 10 are homeless. Students at UCLA have recognized this problem and have stepped up to help, launching the Bruin Shelter, only the second homeless shelter for college students run by college students (after Harvard’s Y2Y).
Bruin Shelter: A shelter for students, by students
Photo courtesy BruinShelter
Santa Monica’s Mt. Olive Lutheran Church has partnered with the students to provide beds from 8pm to 7am, individual storage lockers, communal dinners and breakfast items to go. UCLA medical students assist with medical, vision and dental care.