BLOGPOST: United Way’s HomeWalk LA

In Los Angeles County, nearly 47,000 people are homeless, with at least 40 individuals becoming homeless everyday. This morning I ran a 5K (my first ever!) for United Way’s HomeWalk LA. 100% of every dollar raised went directly towards ending homelessness in Los Angeles County. Homelessness is something that is extremely close to my heart, and after today’s run, I’m feeling centered on compassion and kindness. I’m so glad that I was able to participate and do my part to end homelessness. 💓💪👟

In all my sweaty glory!
In all my sweaty glory!
Right in front of City Hall @ Grand Park.
Right in front of City Hall @ Grand Park.

There were several nonprofits and organizations that were set up and raising awareness at the event. I learned about so many different charities, and even signed up to volunteer with a couple. Some of the organizations featured were Welcome Home Project, LA Youth Vote, Chrysalis, Piece by Piece, and the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, who I’ll be volunteering with in January during their annual initiative to count homeless individuals in LA County (and in turn, gather vital information to understand the scope and demographics of homelessness). Obviously nonprofits are special to me, as I started a 501c3 charity myself! It’s so important to support these organizations, whether that’s through volunteering or donating.

+ I learned more about Prop HHH (also known as the Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond), which Los Angeles recently passed. It is a general obligation bond that will provide funding and allow the city of Los Angeles to build affordable housing units for those who are homeless. I signed a petition to help make Prop HHH county-wide as well, because right now it is only a city-wide measure.

One of my favorite parts of the event was a small, outdoor art gallery that featured Stuart Perlman’s exhibit “Faces of Homelessness: Struggle in Paradise”. Perlman paints oil canvas portraits of our homeless neighbors, from Venice Beach to Skid Row, and currently has over 160 portraits of homeless individuals. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was astonished by the amount of homeless people living here. I remember going to Santa Monica Pier, a world-famous landmark, and wondering why people had sleeping bags under the pier. I actually asked my friend if camping on the beach was common in Santa Monica. (Spoiler alert: they weren’t camping). Being a tourist, I did not understand. Driving down the 101, you’ll see tents set-up and people asking for basic necessities, like food and clothing. I guess I always had this vision of palm trees and sunny skies when it came to Los Angeles. I realize how naïve it sounds now, but I feel like that’s the typical image portrayed of LA. As a tourist, I was conditioned to think about Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Malibu… not the unfortunate parts of the city. When I officially moved here and was exposed to the issue, I started volunteering at two homeless shelters, OPPC-SaMoShel in Santa Monica and Zahn Emergency Housing in downtown.

I was inspired to see these paintings in person, as Perlman’s art truly captures the essence of these people. I love when artists use their talents to advocate! Check out the rest of the portraits on Stuart Perlman’s website.

Another highlight from the HomeWalk was an assembling station to make “Welcome Home” kits for formerly homeless clients of United Way. I was able to volunteer for a bit and make a few kits before the race started.

As for the 5K, it was so much fun! I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Besides track and field in high school, I’ve never participated in a race. But I did a little bit of training in the weeks leading up to this, so I wasn’t too nervous. The 5K started in Grand Park and went all the way through downtown. It felt amazing to run through the city streets, because I go downtown all the time and am used to cars and traffic! It’s not every day that the streets are shut down, allowing you to run rampant.

2016 was the 10th annual HomeWalk, and I can’t wait to participate again next year. At the end of the day, at our very core, we are all the same, and I think we tend to forget about the basic similarities we share as humans. Because even those who are experiencing homelessness deserve respect and dignity.

Just as I was taking this picture, two little boys ran through, laughing and playing tag. It was such a surreal moment to then read the sign directly behind them. It breaks my heart to think about young children who are facing homelessness.

Thanks for reading. Remember to always choose love and choose compassion! 💗