By Dora Leong Gallo, CEO
Several months ago, the results of the 2015 Homeless Count were made public, confirming what we in the homeless provider community already knew – homelessness in the Los Angeles area had increased. More shockingly, the percentage of encampments had increased by 85%. The physical manifestation of homelessness was now visible in virtually every neighborhood of Los Angeles, prompting both the City and County to take action and forcing the City to declare a ‘State of Emergency.’
‘What got us here?’ is a question that has been posed to me several times in the past few months. ‘How much time do you have?’ is the answer I want to give because my answer is complicated. Why someone becomes homeless is complicated. Simply put, however, is that there has been insufficient attention focused on the safety net that is supposed to catch those who fall through the cracks. You cannot pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots, and you cannot make a life for yourself and your children if you have no home.
At ACOF, we provide the homes and services needed to help someone end homelessness in communities where schools, parks, and libraries enhance the quality of life. By providing an affordable apartment, we allow individuals, families, youth exiting from foster care, seniors, and veterans who have been homeless and have a mental health diagnosis a chance at a decent life filled with opportunity.
That opportunity may mean working towards a GED like Victoria, volunteering at church like Caroline, joining a band like Clarence, taking community college classes like Star, or simply re-connecting with family who had been previously alienated, like Robert, who is featured in this newsletter.
For nearly 28 years, ACOF has been building homes and investing in our tenants – because we know combining housing with on-site supportive services works. And we know we have not done this alone. We have had many friends and supporters who have partnered with us, joining us as we celebrated our successes and lifting us up when we have faced challenges. Some of you have been with us from the beginning, and some are new to our work.
No matter your tenure with us, as we head into the holiday season I wish you health, home and happiness each and every day. And in turn, I hope you grant ACOF and the 2,000+ adults and children who live in our buildings one wish too – a meaningful financial contribution to A Community of Friends, so that we may continue fulfilling our mission and provide the services needed to keep a family stable. Happy holidays!