Gina Ender | Contributing Writer
To well-fed, apartment-inhabiting college students, the issue of homelessness may not seem relatable. However, this issue may be nearer than students are aware of.
“We had a woman in our program that almost finished her degree at APU. She finished up the last of what she needed to and we helped her graduate,” Elizabeth House Director of Programs Terry Bright said.
Located in a residential area of Pasadena, Elizabeth House gives homeless pregnant women shelter while equipping them physically, emotionally and spiritually for motherhood and for the workforce. As exemplified in Bright’s success story of one of Elizabeth House’s alumna, there are practical resources available to help people in Los Angeles County end their homelessness. Bright said there are many stories of people who have their life transformed through programs, exemplified in a homeless mother turned APU graduate.
Matthew 25:40 assures Christians whenever they feed, clothe and accept those in need, they are doing it for Christ. In light of this, helping the homeless may be viewed as a form of worship.
While many are aware of homeless people’s needs, they may be unaware of practical ways in which they can help.
“I think one of the most important things that the homeless need is housing. I think we have to look to our community developers and landlords that own property to see how they can work with the homeless to make affordable housing available to them and also work with the systems that are put in place to help the homeless get into affordable housing,” Bright said. “They have to have a home so they can be able to function normally in society.”
Bright asks employers to offer jobs to those in need in order for the people to financially maintain their homes. She said there is also a need for means of transportation, which can be a large monthly expense in itself.
Bright encourages people to help not only monetarily, but in other practical ways as well. This includes voting to change laws and electing politicians who will actively help end homelessness.
“One thing that Elizabeth House has done very well and are very supportive of is walking alongside the homeless who are part of our program,” Bright said.
Bright emphasizes the need for people to incorporate the homeless into their communities. She advocates not only for serving those in need, but providing them with a sense of support and belonging.
Though Elizabeth House and like-minded organizations are making strides to end homelessness, the homeless population in Los Angeles has increased by 12 percent since 2013, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reports. According to 2014 data published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Los Angeles has the second largest homeless population in the country, surpassed only by New York City.
In response to these statistics, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency on homelessness last month, proposing a $100 million budget in hopes of helping the more than 25,000 homeless people in the city. CEO of Union Rescue Mission Andy Bales points to the organization’s influence on this recent resolve.
“I believe we helped in a big way to spur [the state of emergency] on,” Bales said. “We’ve been working behind the scenes to assist with that and we’re ready to cooperate in any way and set up emergency centers outside of Skid Row so that we can get the most possible people off the street as quickly as we can.”
Located on Skid Row, the Union Rescue Mission has served Los Angeles for 125 years, 11 of which Bales has been involved. The organization is one of the largest of its kind in the United States and is the oldest in LA. The mission serves individuals and families of all ages and genders.
“I hope it means an all hands on deck type approach,” Bale said, pointing to the state of emergency as a call for multiple levels of cooperation. “I believe we’re going to take immediate action and it’s going to take everybody. It’s going to take the state and the county and the city and the faith community.”
Union Rescue Mission is a Christian organization. Bales said the mission recently held a church conference that sought to equip churches with information so they could better serve the homeless in their ministries.
For churches seeking to help the homeless, Bales suggests they start a program in which they address specific cases. He also believes it would be beneficial for churches to raise funds together to buy a housing complex for the homeless.
“If every church just did the one thing that God was calling them to do in regard to homelessness, we could make a huge impact.” Bales said, adding that the fight against homelessness will require both conviction and persistence.
“What needs to happen most in LA is a heart change. We don’t rest, we have a holy indignation. We should not quit until every precious person is off the streets.”