fbpx
Sunday, September 20, 2020

Our Homeless Should Not ‘Wander in the Desert’

There are profound parallels between today’s homelessness epidemic and the seven-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot and recalls the ancient Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the desert. We observe the holiday, in part, by erecting a sukkah, a temporary dwelling or hut that typically has walls of palm fronds and a roof partially open to the sky. We eat our meals in the sukkah, and some even sleep there.

The Torah references Sukkot twice. In the Book of Exodus, Sukkot simply commemorates the harvest, during which farmers in the land of Israel would reside in their sukkot and celebrate the festival. The Book of Leviticus, though, offers a deeper meaning. It recounts the rootlessness of the Israelites after their escape from slavery in Egypt, when they lived in fragile dwellings during decades of wandering in the desert en route to the Promised Land. The sukkah reminds us of those hardships and the fragility of life.

For much of our homeless population, a sukkah would be a step up. Los Angeles has the nation’s second-highest number of homeless — approximately 60,000 — with a staggering 75% unsheltered and living with no roof over their heads every night.

The issue of homelessness triggers impassioned responses both from advocates for those living on the streets as well as from residents and business owners frustrated at the impact of ad-hoc encampments that can blight a neighborhood.

A humanitarian crisis such as this is precisely what the community foundations across the country exist to address.

At a time when the homeless population in many California cities and nationally is rising by double-digit percentages annually, our overextended municipal agencies cannot solve this pressing social issue alone. We need collaborative solutions from all sectors of our communities.

When the Los Angeles City Council in July voted to reinstate a ban on sleeping overnight in vehicles parked on residential streets, it imposed yet another obstacle for homeless Angelenos forced to live in their cars. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the estimated number of those living in their cars is more than 16,000.

That is why Safe Parking L.A.’s launch of IKAR’s Jewish Community Safe Lots program is an encouraging step forward. The nonprofit organization will engage with synagogues throughout the city to provide off-street parking for people living in their vehicles, with security and social service resources. The initiative builds on work combating homelessness that Safe Parking L.A. began with IKAR, a spiritual community noted for its social-justice brand of Judaism.

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation) recently awarded a $300,000 grant to this program because it recognized our homelessness epidemic will not be solved by a single “magic bullet.” We need to explore a range of social innovations like that of Safe Parking L.A.

Why has a Jewish foundation taken such a keen interest in the city’s homeless crisis? We believe those with resources that can help ameliorate this problem must step up, get involved and lead by example. A humanitarian crisis such as this is precisely what the community foundations across the country exist to address; our Foundation’s actions are governed by the Jewish precept of tikkun olam — “healing the world.”

Underscoring the need for innovation beyond the public sector is the slower-than-expected impact of two government initiatives here: Los Angeles County Measure H, which increased sales taxes to generate funds for homeless services; and the city’s Proposition HHH, which earmarked $1.2 billion to build 10,000 housing units for the homeless. In late August, City Controller Ron Galperin released an audit of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority that excoriated the agency for its operational failure to hit minimum performance benchmarks.

Despite these stumbles, there are numerous local bright spots of innovation addressing this daunting problem. In fact, Los Angeles was recently lauded at a national conference on homelessness as being at the forefront of solutions to this crisis, thanks to groundbreaking programs that may not make headlines but which offer genuine promise. These include:

• Brilliant Corners’ Motel Conversion Project. Under provisions of Los Angeles’ 2018 Interim Motel Conversion Ordinance, Brilliant Corners will renovate a mid-city motel to provide housing for dozens of homeless individuals. This is a pilot project; more than 380 local motels have 10,000 rooms that could prospectively become permanent supportive housing — far faster and cheaper than new construction.

• The Shared Family Interim Housing effort of LA Family Housing will purchase and renovate three homes in the San Fernando Valley to provide interim housing for homeless individuals and families, in neighborhoods with schools, parks, supportive services and a sense of community — all critical to minimizing the disruptive impact of homelessness on children.

• The People Concern’s Scalable Permanent Supportive Housing initiative is in partnership with FlyawayHomes. The program will leverage private investment dollars and modular-building techniques to reduce the time and cost to develop housing. Their ambitious goal is 10 to 15 facilities within two years to house up to 300 homeless individuals.

Each of these initiatives — all supported by Foundation grants totaling $600,000 — demonstrates bold thinking but also another key element: scalability. Great programs — those that can make a real difference and integrate the efforts of public-sector and private solution providers — require the ability to build upon their successes. Because they are testing new approaches, they must not be afraid to try and fail … and learn from that failure as they try again.

Homelessness is a complex, large-scale problem requiring bold interventions from organizations such as those highlighted above, in addition to and in partnership with the public sectors in cities across the nation. The success of these efforts may encourage other funders and community leaders to work together to improve circumstances for these modern-day wanderers and to make Los Angeles a better place for all of us.


Marvin I. Schotland is president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

What Does Leading With Heart Look Like in Modern Life?

This Rosh Hashanah, consider how you can cultivate the four pillars of heart-centered leadership.

A Moment in Time: 5781 Can’t Come Soon Enough

Dear all, As we approach the Jewish New Year of 5781, I think we can safely say that 5780 came with incredible challenges. I can’t...

Remembering the Life and Work of the Woman who Championed Women’s Rights: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies At 87

She died from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

3 Holocaust Monuments Vandalized With Swastikas in Ukraine and Russia

Police are investigating the instances of vandalism.

Letters: 9/11 Commemoration, Spots and Activism, UAE

9/11 Commemoration “Grow, grow, grow,” we imagine angels whispering to every blade of grass. How much more so to every human soul. That kind of...

Kosovo to Adopt IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

“As a victim of genocidal actions & ethnic cleansing, [Kosovo] understands too well the weight of discrimination & hate.”

86 Jewish Groups Contest Leila Khaled’s SFSU Speaking Event

The groups sent a letter to the SFSU president asking if Khaled is legitimately protected under academic freedom.

Culture

‘A Wilderness of Error’ Revisits Infamous Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case

As recounted in journalist Joe McGinniss’ 1983 book and the subsequent miniseries “Fatal Vision,” MacDonald was convicted of the murders, but was he guilty?

‘The Get’ to Tell Story of Notorious Chasidic Rabbi

The show is based off a GQ article.

Novel’s Russian Jews Find Rough Going in Israel

The setting of “Jerusalem as a Second Language,” a new novel by Rochelle Distelheim (Aubade Publishing), harks back to a remarkable moment in history.

Personalizing Home Ritual With ‘HighHolidaysAtHome’

The team has developed guides and webinars. They're providing steps to invoke various aspects of the holidays as well as family memories. 

Apples of Hope for Rosh Hashanah

As a new year begins, we remember the hard times of recent months but also look forward to the future with a promise of new beginnings.

Latest Articles
Latest

What Does Leading With Heart Look Like in Modern Life?

This Rosh Hashanah, consider how you can cultivate the four pillars of heart-centered leadership.

A Moment in Time: 5781 Can’t Come Soon Enough

Dear all, As we approach the Jewish New Year of 5781, I think we can safely say that 5780 came with incredible challenges. I can’t...

Remembering the Life and Work of the Woman who Championed Women’s Rights: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies At 87

She died from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Hollywood

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

Podcasts

A Rosh HaSchitt’s Creek Sameach to You!

How long has this pandemic been? This week we're giving a big Shofar Wave to 5780 as it exits the building, reviewing some Jewy...

Pandemic Times Episode 88: Words of Light for Rosh Hashanah

New David Suissa Podcast Every Monday and Friday. Excerpts of inspiring messages from community leaders. How do we manage our lives during the coronavirus crisis? How...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x