Organizers expect 15,000 people to participate in Saturday’s 12th annual HomeWalk in downtown Los Angeles, billed as the nation’s largest public event to end homelessness.
The 5-kilometer walk to raise public awareness and funds to end homelessness is being held in the spring for the first time. It was shifted from the fall to allow for full participation from the Los Angeles Rams, one of HomeWalk’s sponsors.
Rams coach Sean McVay is scheduled to attend the start of the walk at Grand Park, along with defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the 2017 and 2018 NFL defensive player of the year, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and punter Johnny Hekker, both four-time Pro Bowl selections, the team’s cheerleaders and mascot, Rampage.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Jon Huertas, a cast member of the acclaimed NBC drama “This is Us,” are also scheduled to attend.
Organizers have set a goal of raising $1.5 million. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will match every $5,000 a person or team raises with another $5,000, United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik said.
The HomeWalk has raised more than $8.6 million in its 11 years, Buik said.
The walk will be followed by free family-oriented activities in Grand Park, along with food trucks and a beer garden.
HomeWalk is part of United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Everyone In Campaign, which seeks to end homelessness across Los Angeles County by providing services to those needing it most and helping provide people experiencing long-term homelessness with short-term and permanent housing solutions.
The HomeWalk is being held 13 days before the planned release of the results of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority point-in-time count of homelessness. All indications are that the trend will be up, perhaps dramatically.
“This is a deepening and dynamic crisis,” Ridley-Thomas said on Tuesday as he joined his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to underline the county’s determination to find permanent solutions for thousands of people living in encampments on city streets and empty lots.
“We are contending with serious head winds that threaten to hinder our progress, but we will not be deterred,” he said.
Los Angeles County had the second-highest number of homeless residents of any region in the nation in 2018, according to a report released in December by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The data was taken from point-in-time counts conducted in January 2018, which found the Los Angeles region had 49,955 homeless residents, behind only New York City, which topped the list with 78,676.
Los Angeles also had one of the highest number of unsheltered homeless living outdoors, in abandoned buildings or other locations not suitable for human habitation, compared to sheltered homeless living in emergency shelters, safe havens or transitional housing. In New York, which had one of the lowest rates, only 5% were unsheltered, compared to 75% percent for Los Angeles.
Los Angeles also had the largest number of individuals with chronic patterns of homelessness in the nation at 12,782, 15% of the national total, and the highest percentage of chronically homeless individuals staying outdoors, at 94%.
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