Home for Good

DJA_0089 By the end of 2015, Los Angeles County will eradicate veteran homelessness—that was the pledge taken this week by national and local government officials, non-profit and philanthropic organizations and the local business community.

Home For Good, an initiative by United Way of Greater Los Angeles and The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to end veteran homelessness in 2015, unveiled a detailed Action Plan recently to meet that goal. The initiative prides itself on an individually based approach to end homelessness. By understanding homeless people’s needs, quickly linking them to permanent housing, job training and mental health help, many veterans have found a new way of life.

DJB_0047
“I am so grateful,” said Felicia Blankenship, a veteran who was homeless for many years before finding permanent housing at the Rosslyn Hotel Apartments in downtown Los Angeles, where the initiative was announced. “I am alive and I am sober and I am so happy to be here.”

Since its launch in 2010, Home For Good partners throughout the region have housed over 12,000 veterans, with a current rate of 438 veterans housed each month. To achieve the goal of eradicating veteran homelessness by the end of the calendar year, the community must house 538 veterans per month.

photo“I welcome my new and fellow Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, in joining me to help solve homelessness in our County,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who in 2010 co-sponsored the motion for Home for Good in Los Angeles County. “This is an esteemed and productive public/private partnership that has made major gains toward ending chronic and veteran homelessness in our County.”

Secretary of U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Robert McDonald, was the keynote speaker at the event, which also included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis.

“If we end veteran homelessness in L.A. County and across the country, imagine what else we can do,” said Robert McDonald, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. “There is no reason why any veteran should be homeless.”

There are 39,500 homeless men and women in Los Angeles County, of which 4,618 are homeless veterans. Los Angeles has seen a 40 percent reduction in veteran homelessness but clearly more work needs to be done.

“Having thousands of people on the street is morally wrong,” said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “Frankly, it is also bad for business.”

With the current partnerships, Home for Good leaders are confident the goal to end veteran homelessness will be met.

“Every region in Los Angeles County is impacted by veteran homelessness, and it will require a strong and collective effort to eradicate the issue and house our homeless veterans still living on the streets,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “I’m confident that with this group effort, renewed focus and expansion of the proven Coordinated Entry System, we will eradicate veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County in 2015.”

For more information, visit Home For Good.

Calling for a Greener Los Angeles County

VX2015 PROGRAM_Page_01Hoping to make Los Angeles County a national leader in “green” innovation, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recently urged business, banking and environmental leaders from around the nation to bring novel solutions to reduce the carbon footprint and improve the region’s quality of life.

“There is no issue more inspiring, more challenging, more critical and more global than the emerging green economy,” he said at the 8th annual VerdeXchange Green Marketmakers Conference. “Businesses, environmentalists and other local leaders are stepping up to the plate with big ideas. And the threat of climate change is pushing government – at all levels – to respond and adapt to a new way of doing things.”

Ridley-Thomas pledged the County’s cooperation and dedication to creating public/private partnerships.

“The County of Los Angeles strives to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he said.

The Supervisor has been working with the nationwide Emerald Cities organization to develop a model workforce training program that will create a pipeline for local contractors to bid on large-scale municipal retrofit projects. In addition, he has championed the large scale adoption of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Programs so that residents and businesses will have other means for financing energy efficient improvements on their properties. He also continues to advocate for more resources to expand the County’s local transit system

A “green” economy, he noted, brings a triple bottom line including, greening communities, inspiration of a new generation of environmental stewards and making sure those green dollars stay local.

“Nothing will reduce our carbon footprint more than getting people out of their cars,” he said. “We know that what is good for the environment is good for business.”

Crenshaw/LAX worker is First Lady’s special guest

Photo: Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Photo: Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

When LeDaya Epps imagines the completed 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX rail line, she will be able to brag to her three children that she helped build it. As one of the few women on the project, Epps is also especially proud that she was born and raised in Compton, a city that will benefit greatly from the new rail line. And now she can also tell her children that through her work, she met President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as their special guest at the State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Epps, who sat in First Lady Michelle Obama’s viewing box at the U.S. Capitol, is a living example of Los Angeles County’s innovative hiring policy for construction projects.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Project Labor Agreement and Construction Careers Policy is the first of its kind for a transit agency. It requires that 40 percent of workers hired must come from low-income neighborhoods, and that 10 percent must be disadvantaged – meaning they meet at least two of nine criteria, such as being veterans or homeless or chronically unemployed.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is on Metro’s Board of Directors, has been a leading advocate of innovative hiring policies for Los Angeles County-related construction projects, including the recently completed Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center in Willowbrook where 23-year-old Blair Martin found employment.

 A recent analysis determined that $5.9-billion in publicly funded projects in the 2nd Supervisorial District alone have created about 41,000 jobs.

“Nothing uplifts a person more than work,” Ridley-Thomas said. “If we invest in people, they will feel empowered and a part of their community. And that is a win-win.”

Epps, the youngest of 11 children, graduated from high school but did not go on to college. She did not find steady employment until she went to a job fair, met a representative of the LA Black Worker Center, and signed up for a rigorous boot camp to become an apprentice laborer. She was one of only two women who completed the program.

The $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX rail line that Epps is helping to build will connect the Expo and Green Lines near the airport, with eight stations serving the Crenshaw District, Inglewood, and Westchester. Funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by LA County voters, the project is scheduled for completion in 2019.

Epps said she was always interested in construction but never dreamed, as a child growing up in foster care, that she would have the opportunity to work on a project like the Crenshaw/LAX line.

“I always liked building things but, being a woman, I thought this was something I could never do,” Epps said. “Now I’m learning new skills and I’m looking forward to building a career as a laborer and being able to provide for myself and my family.”

Grant to Increase Public Transit in West Carson Approved

Carson story picWest Carson is poised to become a regional transportation hub near the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center now that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a state grant to develop a plan aimed at improving transportation, sustainability and increase housing in the area.

The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning will receive $491,770 to create a master plan that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by developing a sustainable community project within a ½ mile radius of the West Carson Metro station.

The plan is funded through voter-approved Proposition 84, which was passed in 2006 and authorizes the legislature to appropriate funds to support urban greening projects and sustainable community planning.

Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, one of the county’s leaders in creating and supporting biomed technology, is expected to serve as a crucial partner in the plan as a significant employer and community hub. From 2001 to 2010, the biosciences industry in Los Angeles County grew nearly 12 percent, outpacing the national bioscience industry by 6 percent.

“The West Carson regional transportation plan will bring environmentally friendly growth and innovation that will benefit the community and the county as a whole,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “With Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, one of the county’s leading biomed institutions next door, West Carson is destined to become a prime location for biotechnology.”

Crenshaw Businesses Get Support

crenshaw1

While construction along the Crenshaw corridor has created challenging circumstances for some small business owners, many also are taking advantage of the opportunities the new Crenshaw-to-LAX rail line will bring. More than 40 businesses currently impacted by the construction learned this week how to tap into novel programs that will support and promote them during this challenging time.

“Since construction began on the Crenshaw/LAX Line, local businesses and patrons have been asked to endure a lot,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who advocated for the programs and coordinated the gathering, said to the group assembled at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall Community Room. “These programs will be critical elements to help businesses thrive.  I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to make sure that the Crenshaw Line construction moves forward safely and in a productive manner that puts community first.”

The programs include the Eat Shop Play Crenshaw marketing and publicity campaign, which encourages community members to “pledge” to eat, shop and play locally and provides routine raffles for people who can demonstrate they have done so on the corridor. Metro will also use social media to encourage people to tell their stories about the Corridor.

Another new program is the Business Solutions Center, which is slated to open December 19, and which will be a dedicated office where business owners can receive advice, technical assistance, case management and resource referral services to address their needs.

One of the key objectives of the Business Solutions Center will be to help businesses apply for the grants that will be made available through an innovative new program, the Business Interruption Fund. In October, the Metro Board unanimously agreed to establish a $10 million annual fund for businesses impacted by construction of the various lines under construction.

“It is an extreme priority to make sure these small businesses can make it through the construction process,” said Mark Robertson, Jr., chief executive of Pacific Coast Regional Small Business Development Corporation, which is helping businesses access the fund. “Everybody understands that the construction of this rail line ultimately means success for the businesses adjacent to them. The challenge is getting to the point where the line is complete and the businesses can reap the benefits.”