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The Homeless Get a Helping Hand

By Edwin Folven, 5/11/2011

People Identified on Hollywood Registry Make Progress


In April 2010, nearly 100 volunteers fanned out across Hollywood over three nights to count the number of homeless people living on the streets to gauge the severity of the problem and determine how to best use available resources.

Sonny Duron (left), managing director of Social Services at Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood, is one of the people who has helped James Brown move from being homeless into temporary housing. (photo by Edwin Folven)

A little more than a year later, the Hollywood Homeless Registry has resulted in more than 35 people receiving housing and new cooperation between the agencies in Hollywood that aid homeless people. Hollywood 4WRD, an organization comprised of numerous entities that address the homeless situation in Hollywood, is releasing the outcomes of the Hollywood Homeless Registry at a ceremony being held today at 1:30 p.m. at the L.A. Film School. While 229 homeless people were counted over the three nights and many have now been housed or directed to available services, the job is far from over, according to representatives. The registry is ongoing, and since the count last year, the number of homeless people has grown to 413, with 212 considered to be “vulnerable,” or likely to die within five years if there is no intervention. Of the 413 people on the list, 95 are veterans who are eligible for federal aid, but live on the streets because they are unaware, or have no ability, to access the resources.

James Brown, a U.S. Army veteran who at age 53 has been homeless on-and-off for three decades, is one of the people identified through the project who  is now receiving help. For the past three months, Brown has been staying in the Gilbert Hotel on Wilcox Avenue through the help of an organization known as Gettlove, which links homeless veterans with available resources. Brown said without the help of Gettlove, which operates at the Social Services of Blessed Sacrament center on Selma Avenue, he would probably still be living on the streets. Brown added that he is more comfortable now than he has been in years, and said he feels like he has something to look forward to in the future.

“I can’t say enough. They make sure I get what I need,” Brown said. “This is the sort of legitimate support needed for people who don’t have the means to support themselves. I have never had a chance to sit back and reflect on things, so once I had a place to stay, I was able to sit back and realize how good I have it.”

Brown, who is originally from Wilmington, Delaware, joined the army in 1976 after finishing high school, and served three years. Afterwards, he held a few short-term jobs and moved to Philadelphia. In 1981, Brown said he was watching an episode of the “Rockford Files” that showed “a lot of sunshine and palm trees” in Southern California, so he decided to move west. Once he arrived, Brown said he found out that it was just as difficult to make ends meet here as it was on the East Coast.

“The army was just a stop gap after high school, because I really hadn’t made the preparations I needed to for the adult life. But the army didn’t seem to be a good fit for me, so after three years I ended my association with the government and got out of the army. I was basically on the streets,” Brown said. “I managed to make it out to Los Angeles on Labor Day, 1981, and it instantly fell apart. I had no information about the area. Pretty quickly, my money ran out. Somebody told me I could get some help from the county, and they put me up in a hotel downtown. I felt this vim and vigor to get something going, but things just kept getting worse.”

Brown said he stayed in hotels in the skid row area for nearly 10 years, and worked on-and-off at the organization that is now the Fred Jordan Mission. Brown said he never had a problem with alcohol or drugs, but just couldn’t hold a job. He moved to San Francisco and later to Bakersfield, where he also moved from job to job. After returning to Los Angeles in the mid-‘90s, he received help from the All Saints Church in Pasadena, Housing Works and the Catholic Workers organization, which offers shelter and assistance to homeless individuals. He had a place to stay at different shelters and programs until 2005, when he started receiving federal Social Security payments, and he struck out on his own again. From 2005 until 2011, he was back living on the streets, mostly in the Encino area, and finally ended up in Hollywood.

“It was really tough being homeless. People don’t treat you very well, and it is a very hard life,” Brown said. “I hadn’t been able to get to the VA (Veterans Administration) in years, but then this all happened. Now I have a nice room to keep my stuff. I just can’t say enough.”

Brown was linked with Gettlove and Social Services at Blessed Sacrament, which now provides him with meals and other help. Keegan Hornbeck, a housing coordinator with Gettlove, is helping Brown navigate the process of obtaining help from the Veterans Administration, and he is currently awaiting approval of a VA voucher that will pay for 70 percent of the cost of an apartment. Hornbeck said veterans ending up homeless is a big problem, and estimated that one-in-four people living on the streets in Hollywood are veterans.

“By identifying a large number of veterans, it brought the VA to the table to provide some help. The homeless in Hollywood don’t use those services, or don’t have the ability to get over to the VA [in West Los Angeles] to get services,” Hornbeck said. “Through the registry, we learned that a high number of homeless people in Hollywood are suffering from mental illness, and now we can get them the help they need. It allows the veterans to use the resources that they are entitled to.”

Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Entertainment District (HED), which is one of the organizations that comprise Hollywood 4WRD, said the homeless registry has allowed for a comprehensive approach to solving the problem. In addition to Gettlove, Blessed Sacrament and the HED, the group includes People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the Offices of Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District; City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, among others.

“We are now looking at these individuals as our homeless neighbors in Hollywood and how we can come together to help them,” Morrison said. “Before, each organization was just working with their own clientele, and there was no comprehensive approach. We are breaking down those silos, and that is a big, big thing.”

Garcetti said he is encouraged by the progress that is being made.

“This is a great example of our Hollywood Homeless Registry at work,” Garcetti said. “It enabled us to identify James and find resources to help him. It’s also a good example of a public-private partnership with the city, business community, and private organizations such as Gettlove working together to help James and others like him get off the streets.”

Sonny Duron, the managing director of Social Services at Blessed Sacrament, which serves approximately 225 homeless people a day, added that he is hopeful more will be done in the future because of the homeless registry. Homeless individuals receive daily meals, showers, free clothing and numerous other services at the facility, located at 6636 Selma Ave. Duron added that his organization, and the others, continue to add people to the homeless registry as they are identified.

“I think the homeless registry is extremely important. We are getting several of the people who otherwise might have fallen through the cracks,” Duron said. “This is a huge population that lives in our community that has been ignored and neglected, and now people are taking notice. It’s a problem that exists right outside their front door.”

For information on the Hollywood Homeless Registry, visit www.hollywoodbid.org, or www.facebook.com/hollywood4wrd.



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One Response to “The Homeless Get a Helping Hand”

  1. I would love to help out let me know what I can do for the homeless

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