Jermaine Green’s extensive military service in the Army spanned decades spent in precarious hotspots around the world — Iraq, Afghanistan and the region decimated by Hurricane Katrina. While he made it safely through all that, the veteran couldn’t combat the recessionary forces he found when he came home to Los Angeles.
Jobless and with no resources left, Green and his wife found themselves living on the streets of L.A., along with thousands of other inhabitants of what’s reputed to be the homeless capital of the nation. "It was the first time, and it was rough for me," he recalled. "I had always seen people on the street, and I never thought it would be me."Fortunately, Green became one of the beneficiaries of Home for Good, an initiative led by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2016. This particular demographic makes up about 25 percent of the estimated 51,000 who are homeless in the county. While a minority, they use 74 percent of the resources available to the homeless, according to the United Way.
Today, it’s too easy for many people to accept the fact that the homeless live among them, said Jerry Newman, co-chair of the Home for Good Task Force, on the group’s website. "We’ve gotten so used to the fact that homelessness is just part of our reality and part of our community, to the point where it almost fades into the background as just an accepted condition," he said.
Unwilling to simply accept homelessness, a broad swath of the L.A. community has gotten behind the Home for Good mission.
Nearly 100 L.A. leaders representing city and county government, the business community, religious and philanthropic groups, law enforcement, social service organizations and many other sectors have endorsed an action plan, created by the task force in December 2010, that outlined ambitious strategies to create housing and support services to help 19,000 veterans and chronically homeless get off the streets in five years.
Already, the task force has exceeded its specific goals in three areas in Year One — 2011 — of the plan.
During that time, 864 veterans were moved into permanent housing. The program also found permanent supportive housing for 2,273 chronically homeless people. And while the average time it took to move a homeless veteran into housing was 168 days in 2010, the wait time dropped to 100 days in 2011. That translates to more than two months that a veteran didn’t have to sleep in the streets.
While great progress has been made, the United Way needs your help to meet task force priorities in Year Two of the plan and other objectives. You can become part of this worthy effort by donating to United Way programs during the 2012 UCLA/United Way campaign that gets underway May 7 and runs through May 18.
Maciek Kolodziejczak, director of student services in the Department of Public Policy, was part of a Luskin School of Public Affairs team that helped raise close to $5,000 for United Way's programs for the homeless.
During last year’s campaign, UCLA employees dug deep, donating $200,196 to United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Some participated even more directly: Last November, a team of more than 30 walkers from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs took part in United Way’s 5k HomeWalk 2011 and raised close to $5,000 toward the goal of ending homelessness in Los Angeles County.
Others are giving of their time and talent as well. Dean Frank Gilliam of the Luskin School serves on the United Way of Greater Los Angeles Board of Directors. He also is a member of United Way’s Community Impact Cabinet, along with Urban Planning Lecturer Goetz Wolff.
During the campaign, staff and faculty will be able to donate online by giving a one time gift or initiating a payroll deduction. UCLA staff and faculty have been making this kind of commitment to a better L.A. since 1968.
"In supporting Home for Good and many other invaluable programs, UCLA and United Way together make a vital difference in our community," said Chancellor Gene Block in a letter sent today to the campus community.