by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that the city received $72 million additional funding from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fight homelessness in the city. The amount was 26 percent more than it received last year. Villaraigosa made the announcement on Monday, December 24, at the annual star-studded LA Mission Christmas Eve Lunch for homeless.
“It’s the largest Federal fund that Los Angeles ever received in addition to nearly $60 million in grants for ongoing projects, plus $12 million to the Shelter Plus Care Project,” the mayor said.
The bonus funds will help provide more rental assistance and support for housing units for the “chronically homeless” in the city.
Last year, Los Angeles was denied Federal assistance because it was in the process of reforming decades of corrupt practices at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA). When Villaraigosa became mayor, one of his first acts was to reorganize HACLA and appoint a new manager, Rudy Montiel.
“Last year, I said we were going to fix it. We were going to make it better and we were going to address the fact that for decades this department had been underperforming and not doing what it needed to do to maximize its resources,” Villaraigosa said.
Villaraigosa also acknowledged the Homeless Service Authority. He said it was crucial in building the powerful alliance between the city, the county and the non-profit agencies to make sure that the homeless service programs can compete for all available funds. The mayor also cited the efforts of non-profit organizations, including the LA Mission, Union Rescue Mission, Midnight Mission, Fred Jordan Mission, Downtown Women’s Shelter and others that “every day provide for the homeless.”
“This is a wonderful Christmas gift. But more importantly, this funding will help thousands of people get back their hopes and find a brighter future,” said City Council President Eric Garcetti, whose district has a sizable homeless population. “We must make sure that everyone has a home not just during this season, but throughout the year.”
The annual Christmas Eve Lunch at the LA Mission attracts hundreds of volunteers, including many celebrities, community and city leaders. An entire block of 5th Street, between Wall and San Pedro Streets was closed to vehicular traffic, to give way to gaily decorated tables festooned with green-colored tablecloths lining the street. Villaraigosa and Garcetti spent time serving at the chow line after a 30-minute press conference.
Hollywood celebrities, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Mark Wilkerson, Melissa Joan Hart, Mike Rapaport, Kyrstle Ritter, Melissa Gilbert, Bruce Boxleitner, Spencer Pratt, and Ross McCall, among many other personalities, manned the chow line, dispensing sliced hams, grilled chicken breasts, green beans and corn, cranberry sauce, and huge slices of chocolate cake for dessert.
“This is an incredible expression of love,” says Kate Lender who plays Esther Valentine in the 25-year-old soap, The Young and the Restless. “What is really great about it is that people do not have to stand in line to get food. We serve the food to them,” she said. Lender has been volunteering yearly at LA Mission for many years, including during Thanksgiving and Easter.
On Monday, LA Mission had enough meals to serve to more than 3,000 homeless and poor Angelenos.
Further down 5th Street, attorney Cheryl Walsh and her children gave cream-colored hooded capes donated by local churches.
“I am handing out capes for the adults, and we are also giving gifts to the children and to all the people here,” Walsh said. She is from San Juan Capistrano and specializes in elder law, helping the elderly and disabled senior citizens get state and medical benefits, and in state planning.
The LA Mission has been addressing the challenges of homelessness, drug addiction and alcohol abuse in the Skid Row section of Los Angeles for over 70 years. Last year, the mission provided 510,835 hot meals, 126,380 nights of safe shelter, 204,677 articles of clean clothing, daily showers, shaves, temporary baggage service and medical and dental care to homeless men, women and children.