volunteers housing the homeless

submission by gwhfc

Organization Name


The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition





Please select the one indicator that is most relevant to your project or organization: Housing

What is your idea and how will it impact your indicator?


For 25 years the all-volunteer GWHFC has helped the homeless of Hollywood and West Hollywood survive life in the street by serving them a fantastic meal every night, seven nights a week, which we make entirely from high-end food donated to us all over town. With the GWHFC/UCLA Mobile Clinic, which we founded in 2001, we help them take care of their myriad medical and legal concerns. Now, we'd like to focus on getting them OFF the street, one by one, into safe, clean, and attractive apartments of their own choosing -- not public housing and not slum housing, but apartments which we wouldn't mind living in ourselves (just as the meals we serve are planned and prepared to our taste, as if we were going to eat them, not they). Over the past 18 months we've "housed" twelve chronically homeless "clients" in that way, and we've come to realize that we are better at it than any of the dozen or so public and private agencies which use up enormous amounts of money in salary and overhead to do the same thing. Why are we better? Because we are volunteers, and we come to know the people we serve organically: we meet them over a really good meal, and little by little they tell us about themselves, and we are able to figure out which of them are ready to join us back in the mainstream. We aren't social scientists, and we aren't bureaucrats -- we are a cross-section of the community much like they are, and it is no wonder that they come to trust us and we come to trust them, because they know we are doing what we do out of love for our fellow man and for no other reason.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?


Having been called into being as volunteers by the City of West Hollywood in 1987, we suffered the awful realization just two years later that West Hollywood, as a political entity, wasn't ready to defend a group that was helping the homeless. We were accused of perpetuating homelessness, encouraging criminal behavior, despoiling the neighborhood, and destroying property values -- all this for serving hungry people something to eat once a day -- and we were effectively run out of town and into Hollywood, suddenly an orphan group of volunteers but with a reputation in the media for having fought city hall and survived. From that point forward we have only gotten braver, because little by little we came to know that there were a lot of people like us in the community who wanted to do something "good" but didn't know where to begin. We have since fought any number of running battles just to keep going -- against neighbors and neighbors' groups, against politicians and other "social service agencies," and, just two years ago against a company which sued us for creating "a public and a private nuisance." When that happened we were defended pro bono for eight months by a partner and four associates of one of the largest law firms in town, and at the end of it the judge in the case threw it out with prejuidice. We are now stronger and more effective than we have ever been, and we continue to grow stronger still. We serve an ever-better meal, to between 150 and 200 people every night. We have two or three new volunteers coming to us every day, and our ability to network in the community at large is nothing short of extraordinary. As far as we know, no other ragtag grass-roots organization formed to help the homeless has lasted as long as we have and attracted so much support. And yet we are still at the takeoff point, in that every new volunteer who means it has a new idea as to how we can reach deeper into the community and how we can avail ourselves of its strength to do more for the weakest among us.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.


The US Department of Housing and Urban Development
The Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles
The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles
The Department of Social Services of The City of West Hollywood
The Social Security Administration
The Department of Social Services of the County of Los Angeles
St. Victor Roman Catholic Church in West Hollywood
St. Paul Roman Catholic Church in Westwood
The Hollyood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for West Hollywood
The Business Improvement District (BID) for the Media District
The Hollywood Business Owners' Alliance and Hwd4ward
Our administrative umbrella agency Special Service for Groups

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?


We will measure it one homeless person at a time -- who is no longer homeless but back with the rest of us: indoors, with a place to sleep at night, a place to wash and keep clean, a place to be warm and safe and to store clothes and other things, and a place to receive friends and family, as if having friends and family again wasn't just a matter of figuring out how to survive but a matter of living and enjoying life.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles? Please be specific.

Getting fifteen chronically homeless people off the street and into permanent housing will (1) vastly reduce the amount of taxpayer money spent to take care of them IN the street -- in shelters, in emergency rooms and hospitals, in police stations and jails and prisons; (2) since the effort will be entirely volunteer and OF the community, it will draw the community as a whole into a closer relationship with the homeless generally and help to do away with the notion that we live in one world and they live in another; (3) it will save fifteen perfectly good people from a downward spiral from which most of us would be hard pressed to pull out and, in the case of a number of them, it will return them to a position of productivity alongside the rest of us: to jobs, to social and political interactions of all kinds, and (sure enough) to VOLUNTEERING to help others who are still on the downward spiral.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?


Success in 2050 would be the citizens of Los Angeles -- not the politicians, not the activists, not the social service agencies, but the citizens -- long since having awakened to the fact that life is only wonderful if the wonder of it can be shared and celebrated as widely as possible for the greater good. In the latter half of the Twentieth Century political and economic systems were created ostensibly to make that happen, and it simply didn't. Now we have another chance: not for ideological reasons or with a view to creating yet another enforceable system, but because there is no greater social logic than doing good for its own sake, we should all follow our instincts and pitch in. The number of volunteers who want to join the GWHFC is growing in geometric proportions. By 2050 will they and others like them have nothing more to do, because people will no longer be living in the street? Not a chance. But there is every chance that if we keep going as we are going now, we will be able to move the newly homeless off the street almost as fast as they come to it, and it will be easier to do it than it is now, because most of the community will be engaged with us in the process. We will ALL be volunteers.

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by RIP Christine
over 2 years ago

An amazing organization that truly understands what a chance can do for someone... I've only been with the GWHFC for a few months, but I have witnessed their love and dedication to those of Sycamore and Romaine. GWHFC is changing the lives of individuals, one meal at a time, clients and volunteers alike, and is giving hope and futures to those who need it the most. It's really incredible to see what starts as a good meal can do - please vote for GWHFC!

by geneu
almost 3 years ago

This is such an incredible organization! The impact of their efforts is immeasurable and taking this next step to help solve the issue of homelessness in LA by providing housing and stability should be applauded loudly!

by remi310la
almost 3 years ago

GWHFC does much more than provide a nightly hot, nutritious meal to the homeless and hungry. They treat those who are down on their luck with respect and dignity, rebuild lives, nourish lost souls, and have helped many get off the streets. Through our partnership over 13 years, GWHFC has also inspired thousands of UCLA Mobile Clinic students to help the less fortunate by providing street-based health and social services, and connecting the homeless to other organizations within Los Angeles. This grant will make a tremendous difference in the lives of those touched by this amazing organization. I couldn't think of a more capable group to help get the homeless into permanent housing, and I urge you to vote for GWHFC. Please spread the word to others, and urge them to vote and support GWHFC's amazing work.

by koy@ucla.edu
about 3 years ago

GWHFC does some of the most incredible community work not only providing food and shelter to those in need, but more importantly giving a sense of purpose and hope to those that may feel forever lost in society. The true foundation is building long-term relationships and building confidence in these individuals to again become truly independent and acclimated back into society. I guarantee that this grant will make a difference to those that are a part of the GWHFC community and I urge everybody to support and vote for their cause. GL

by bulgogi012
about 3 years ago

The GWHFC is an incredible resource to the homeless community of West Hollywood. They provide more than a hot meal - they restore the sense of dignity, hope, and caring interaction; it is a safe place to be. As a student volunteer, I've learned the importance of housing. It is truly the foundation in which one can find stability to allow for long-term employment, family relationships, and healthy living. Simply spoken, funding a housing project allows for an enormous improvement in quality of life. This is a real opportunity to change someone's life. Please support this cause.

by asuen87
about 3 years ago

To those who want to see a change, who want to better the lives of those in need, but worry about how efficiently your dollar is being put to use... this is your chance. This is your chance to make a difference in the lives of those who are down on their luck, who desperately need your help. Please help us get fifteen of our friends get back on their feet. "I Am My Brother's Keeper."

by jlerner5
about 3 years ago

The GWHFC is a truly dedicated group who uses the their limited resources for unlimited good. Feeding hungry and homeless people causes positive ripple effects throughout the community and getting those homeless into homes would do even more. If any group has the knowledge and tenacity to achieve this, the GWHFC does. With this grant money the GWHFC could make Los Angeles better for everyone.

by jencrittenden
about 3 years ago

As a recipient of the care and kindness and guidance of the GWHFC I was able to turn my life around - something that would have been utterly impossible without their help and compassion. I had no money, serious health issues, not place to live and I was in urgent need of direction. I had gone from having a family, a career and a social life, to having nothing - nothing at all. I was almost paralyzed with fear and anxiety. The GWHFC fed me, housed me, took me to my doctor appointments, helped to pay for my prescriptions. But even more important than that, they offered friendship and helped me to repair my self confidence and stressed that the situation I was in was not permanent - it was just a chapter, They gave me direction, and assisted me in sorting out matters that I had difficulty with. And, always in a warm, loving manner. Today, thanks to the fact that GWHFC helped me when I so needed it, I have a lovely place to live, a wonderful career and many friends. This is a direct result of the open arms of the GWHFC. I have no idea where I would be if it were not for them, but I will be forever grateful for the wonderful things they did for me. I truly love them. CS

by Fionna
about 3 years ago

I have been around the GWHFC since the beginning, always wanting to volunteer more than I was able. The dedication of the tiny staff and the results they accomplish are miraculous. With hardly any resources they are there at Sycamore feeding the homeless every night. They find housing, clothing, all kinds of assistance which comes from the bottom of their hearts. Having some money to care for their people would bring so much joy,not only to the people who will be helped, but to GWHC because they will be able to do so much more more.

by rfranklin310
about 3 years ago

The work of GWHFC actually changes people's lives. You can see the power of this positive change at dinnertime: it is not unusual to see people who have benefited--from the food, the medical attention, the housing and the human interaction--show their appreciation by turning around and volunteering.

by alex.boling1
about 3 years ago

GWHFC understands the most beneficial act for the homeless is to find each deserving person a place to live and a job with which they can get back on their feet. I have been a part of GWHFC for most of my life and have been lucky to be part of this community of truly great and kind-hearted people. The volunteers offer comfort to people who lack the resources to obtain food and medical aid while they try to find a job and rebuild their lives. Many of the people who go to GWHFC for help have been on a waiting list for an apartment for many years; this money would help immensely with the ability to give these people a roof over their heads.

by gluzwick
about 3 years ago

I signed up to volunteer one night 3 years ago and i have been going ever since. The most amazing organization ever. Helping the homeless in every aspect of their lives- from giving them medical aid and food to finding affordable housing so they have stability and a chance to get a job and improve their lives.

by rye10580
about 3 years ago

I've volunteered with GWHFC before, and they really do a lot of good. If any group deserves a little help to provide even more help for others, it's GWHFC.

by kati.stevens
about 3 years ago

This is such an incredible organization! The impact of their efforts is immeasurable and taking this next step to help solve the issue of homelessness in LA by providing housing and stability should be applauded loudly!

by sarah.pariso
about 3 years ago

Pink ribbon award box icon 45b87e779c93f5099a48378c2aadc0fcd51184974daecf76e3f5c50034ea21fb
Award topvotedidea 5a5ae14e3d56a10363ea2a398cece46cf4df891213cbe68677c19d8903a1932a
$1,000,000 in total grants
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Submission Began
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Submission Ended
Thursday, March 28, 2013
at 07:00 PM UTC

Circle 2 inactive 74a43088831beb43fdbd7591ef5d50a5a7a26ff92c9e8ed489782459fa31a8d9 Step2 title voting inactive 96be722f53c417edddb5742ba9a6dc2fd403f7e4f6c19dbe883d50d20d93689d

Voting Began
Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Voting Ended
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
at 07:00 PM UTC

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Homeboy Industries: Hope Has An Address
Homeboy Industries: Hope Has An Address

Winner Announced
Wednesday, May 08, 2013