On any given night in Greater Los Angeles some 66,436 people are homeless, a 16.1% increase in LA over 2019 according to the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Agency. South LA hosts the second highest number of any area in the county. And that was before the onslaught of COVID-19.
Cristy Godby was part of this homeless crisis. She was on the streets of LA before finding her way to the homeless services group HOPICS where she was finally able to secure an apartment. But upon arrival, the owners of the building saw “a homeless woman with dirty clothes and tattoos” and rescinded their offer – discrimination which is all too common. Back on the streets, Cristy eventually found her way to housing services provider Brilliant Corners. SoLa Impact has a close working relationship with both HOPICS and Brilliant Corners. By wrapping one partnership around another, SoLa was able to find a home for Cristy. She is now safe, secure and housed. Without this ecosystem, there would have been no way out for Cristy.
Last month, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development released its national report on the state of homelessness in 2020. On a given night in January 2020, 580,466 people were homeless across the US – an increase of 2.2% over 2019, or about 18 of every 10,000 people in the United States. Worst still, according to the report, “nearly 4 of 10 people experiencing homelessness in January 2020 were Black or African American (39% or 228,796 people)… 23[%], were Hispanic or Latino.” For reference, the total Black population (13.4%) and Hispanic or Latinx population (18%) of the US account for 31.4% but make up 62% of all unhoused individuals. It is hard to imagine a more stark statistic illustrating the racial wealth and opportunity gaps in our country.
SoLa Impact is dedicated to providing tangible and pragmatic solutions to curbing the homelessness crisis by focusing on a “Housing First Approach”. To that end, SoLa Impact will bring 1,500 units of high-quality affordable housing online in the next 24 months.
We work hard to keep our residents housed long term. In 2020, SoLa Impact ended homelessness for 126 households, of whom 75% were Black, 20% were unsheltered, 36% experienced chronic homelessness, and 44% were in shelters. These individuals reported facing unique challenges when applying for housing, including: accessing personal documents, poor credit, continual financial instability, and mental and physical health challenges. Additionally, navigating the labyrinth of government programs and services is confusing and often overwhelming.
We believe it is essential to build a reliable ecosystem of community direct services, nonprofit, for-profit and government partnerships as it increases the likelihood of moving an individual out of homelessness and keeping them housed.
SoLa Impact continues to build an ecosystem with partners throughout South LA.
Our data-driven approach works to end intergenerational poverty and prevent homelessness through strategic partnerships and programs that rapidly address the specific barriers and challenges tenants face. These programs and partnerships address economic mobility, health and food insecurities and other significant barriers that perpetuate homelessness in Los Angeles. Through our youth programs and scholarships, SoLa helps to create access to college and career awareness, financial literacy and education. Our technology and entrepreneurship center is bridging the digital divide in South LA. We’re partnering with St. John’s to ensure our communities have direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations through our clinics, and are working with all of our tenants directly to apply for rent-relief resources such as SB 91.
As our community begins the process of emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is little doubt the economic suffering will continue in the short term. This only makes our work more urgent in the important weeks and months to come.