Why L.A. Business Owners Should Care About The Homeless Epidemic
By Tina Hovsepian
June 20, 2018

Every business in L.A. should be concerned about homelessness, whether it is directly impacted by it or not. As most of us in Los Angeles are painfully aware, the issue is getting worse and worse, and it has been called a state of emergency by L.A. County. I personally participated in the 2018 Homeless Count conducted by the L.A. Homeless Services Authority with over 8,000 other volunteers and the results show that over 53,000 people in L.A. County do not have access to shelter. Therefore, they are left to live on the streets of Los Angeles, which is costing taxpayers. In fact, L.A. County spends about $1 billion per year to keep people living on the streets, according to a 2016 report.

Even so, it is hard to put a finger on a solution that is making a great impact and improving the situation much, if at all. Since 2010 I have been keeping a pulse on the programs, initiatives, funding and people involved in solving this seemingly impossible problem. I dare say that there are solutions, but they, first and foremost, require some basic shifts in how business owners think about homelessness. Here are five simple things you can do to get started today:

1. Respect human life. This means not favoring those who are wealthy or famous over others. This is a basic and simple shift in cognition that will be the basis of our society moving toward long-term solutions for many social injustices, including homelessness.

2. Understand and gain compassion. Do not wait for it to happen to you before you try to understand. Simply ask Alexa to recap stories about homeless individuals to hear a multitude of different paths that lead to a person losing their home. These stories are humbling, and you might even realize how plausible it is. If you are able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you may realize someone you know is one paycheck away from missing rent or defaulting on a mortgage. Other education sources include the Invisible People blog, and the yHomeless? documentary that shares various stories of people who are homeless and how they came to be homeless.

3. Get involved. If you are not already, get involved in your local business improvement district. Other additional resources include local neighborhood council meetings or organizations championing the cause of homelessness. In your own offices, you can implement staff volunteer days and suggest they focus on the cause of homelessness. Some companies match staff time spent volunteering in the form of donations to nonprofit organizations as an alternative to simply matching the staff’s donation amount. This simple task will help your team relate to the issue more intimately and help tie faces, names and stories to the issue. It will also bring you to the forefront of corporate social responsibility on one of the most pertinent issues in Los Angeles.

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