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Trends in the 2021 My LA2050 Grants Challenge PLAY Category

Posted April 28, 2021 by LeAnn Kelch and Jake Bishop

At LA2050, the PLAY category represents our vision that the Los Angeles region will provide abundant, enjoyable recreational opportunities for people of all ages. By the year 2050, people from across Los Angeles will live in close proximity to vibrant park spaces and have easy access to high-quality, sustainable venues to get active, explore the outdoors, and appreciate our natural environment. All residents will feel a sense of safety and belonging in their neighborhoods.

We noticed four trends in the 34 submissions this year's PLAY category:

  1. Several submissions focused on expanding play equity and access to sports and recreation in Los Angeles. This year, there was a particular emphasis on increasing access to historically-exclusive sports such as golf, tennis, lacrosse, and surfing. Some of the applicants seeking to ensure Angelenos can participate in any sport of their choosing are the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, Harlem Lacrosse, the SCGA Foundation, Color the Water, and the Sloane Stephens Foundation.
  2. The PLAY category emphasizes getting outside and being active; but often, there is much more to recreation than meets the eye. Several of this year's submitters proposed proposals that demonstrate the impact of playing with purpose. For example, Creative Acts uses art, music, and theatre games to foster civic engagement in youth and East Side Riders Bike Club gives young people an alternative to drugs and gangs through cycling. Other applicants addressing our communities' deeper needs through play include the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, Project:Camp, Books and Buckets, and Up2Us Sports.
  3. After more than a year spent indoors due to COVID-19, Angelenos are ready to reconnect with our region's natural and urban environments. A number of this year's applicants focused on building back these connections and inspiring Angelenos to explore their surroundings – whether CicLAvia's plan for a WalkLAvia or, LA Audubon's and Nature for All's outdoor programming.
  4. Another important aspect of PLAY is having access to high-quality, safe spaces for recreation. For that reason, several of this year's submissions focused on improving the quality of parks and green spaces in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Organizations seeking to ensure that all Angelenos are the Integrated Recovery Network, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, and Urban Peace Institute.

Project Camp proposes setting up pop-up day camps to support children, parents, and communities in the aftermath of disasters.

The East Side Riders Bike Club team gives children in Watts an alternative to gangs and drugs through group bike rides, teaching bicycle safety, and advocating for more bike lanes. Their proposal seeks funding to continue this work.

The Ready, Set, Gold! program from the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games seeks to promote healthy, active lifestyles to children in local schools.

Angel City Alliance seeks to encourage people with disabilities to reach their fullest potential and engage with their communities through a broad spectrum of adaptive wellness opportunities for adults and children.

"Art Attacks!" — the application from Creative Acts — focuses on the organization's work to civically engage incarcerated youth through visual art, music, and theatre games.

SCGA Foundation applied for its programming using golf as a vehicle for youth development and bringing equity to the game.

The proposal from Brady Center focuses on mobilizing young Angelenos to engage in ending gun violence through a supply-side approach.

Sprouts of Promise plans to partner with the Los Angeles Food Policy Council to ensure all LA kids have access to growing vegetables with a brand new mobile farm on wheels!

Applicant Street Soccer USA, in partnership with ThinkWatts, seeks funding to build accessible futsal courts on unused land and hire and retain local community staff for its youth programs.

For its submission, CicLAvia proposes launching "WalkLAvia" – a dedicated week for Angelenos to get back outside and have fun, also addressing the social and emotional toll of COVID-19.

Tree of Life Child and Family Services applied to the My LA2050 Grants Challenge to support opportunity youth in South LA through trauma-informed recreational programming.

The Child Development Institute Early Learning Center in Reseda seeks to implement programming at its outdoor garden area that will provide children ages 0-6 and their families with a multipurpose place to play and bond.

Los Angeles Audubon's "Nature is in PLAY" project aims to connect all Angelenos to the inspiring, energizing, and healing benefits of nature in the city.

The proposal from the Surf Bus Foundation includes the creation of four high school surf teams in regions historically blocked from ocean access plus sustained coaching support, practices, camps, and contests.

The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation seeks funding for its RBI initiative focusing on leveling the playing field in baseball and softball for Black youth, girls, and teens in Los Angeles.

"Bikes for the People," the proposal from Bicycle Kitchen/La Bici-Cocina in partnership with Bikerowave and Los Angeles LGBT Center, would provide free bikes, accessories, maintenance, and safety courses to individuals lacking transportation.

Resilient Agency seeks funding to support its re-entry programming and COVID-19 relief services in South LA.

Do you love puppet performances? So does Bob Baker Marionette Theater! Its proposal hopes to launch the "Marionette Mobile" to bring puppet performances to every corner of Los Angeles.

"Why Not? Play in South LA," LA Promise Fund's submission to this year's grants challenge in partnership with NBA player Russell Westbrook, addresses play equity and strives to support students as athletes, activists, and academic achievers.

Through a basketball academy, guided reading and comprehension help, and mentoring, Books and Buckets aims to empower Washington Neighborhood Youth with its proposal.

The Sloane Stephens Foundation believes in using tennis as a vehicle to change the narrative of poverty, health inequity, and educational underdevelopment in Compton.

The “Rethink MacArthur Park" Initiative from the Integrated Recovery Network aims to employ individuals experiencing homelessness in MacArthur Park.

The proposal from the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, “Sail Away Weekends," would provide extraordinary adventures to heal and bond families of Los Angeles homicide victims through a partnership with Justice For Murdered Children.

If Urban Peace Institute becomes a finalist, the organization will use funds to empower peacemakers and community leaders to reduce violence at Harvard Park and ensure children and families feel safe enough to play.

The Children's Lifesaving Foundation is seeking funds for its summer camp, which provides crucial outdoor educational and positive social experiences to transitioning homeless and underserved youth from urban and shelter environments.

"All Aboard for Nature," the proposal from Nature for All, would provide a total of ten free trips to nature 500+ community members without access to transportation, many of whom will visit our nearby public lands for the first time.

The Gasol Foundation's "VIDA! Health and Wellness Compton" submission focuses on empowering children and their families with tools and support to live a healthier lifestyle and improve their overall well-being.

Harlem Lacrosse LA's "Keep PLAYing: High School Program Expansion" seeks to expand the organization's high school lacrosse programs and staff in Inglewood, Compton, and South LA.

Last year, 248 Angelenos died while walking or cycling. Street Simplified LLC applied to this year's grants challenge with a proposal to use artificial intelligence technology and data to reduce crashes on LA streets.

Up2Us Sports understands the "Healing Power of Coaches." That's why its proposal focuses on ramping up the support and training of trauma-informed coaches who will inspire the health and wellbeing of LA youth following COVID-19.

"Youth of Promise," the proposal from Flintridge Center, furthers the organization's work investing in youth exposed to trauma and adverse childhood experiences via after-school programming.

The Los Angeles Community Garden Council seeks funding to build community at the Fountain Community Gardens through workshops and other engagement activities.

"Joyful Antiracist Surf Lessons for BIPOC," the submission from Color the Water, focuses on providing free surf lessons to BIPOC and fighting racism in surf culture.

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust applied for funding to continue its work developing healthy, active green spaces in communities that need it most and fostering park equity.

Trends in the 2021 My LA2050 Grants Challenge LIVE Category

Posted April 21, 2021 by LeAnn Kelch and Jake Bishop

At LA2050, the LIVE category represents our vision that all Los Angeles residents will have equitable access to the environmental, economic, and cultural resources needed to thrive. By the year 2050, Los Angeles will have the nation's lowest poverty rate. All families will have access to fresh and healthy food, high-quality health care, and safe housing, no matter where they live or how much money they make. Our communities will enjoy the benefits of a sustainable environment, from clear skies to clean water.

We noticed six trends in the 74 proposals in this year's LIVE category:

  1. A number of LIVE proposals focused on providing health education resources and mental health support to young people. And, with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, several are seeking funding specifically to develop virtual and mobile programming, from phone applications to online chats. Some of the organizations providing this essential programming to youth include Changeist, Peer Health Exchange, Creative Healing for Youth in Pain, We Can Foundation, and more.
  2. The most popular impact metric selected by LIVE applicants was “resilient communities." It's no surprise that in this time, 29 applicants are focused on enhancing Angelenos' capacity to withstand, adapt, and even thrive in the face of obstacles – from Strategic Actions for a Just Economy's UNIDAD Coalition to the Los Angeles Food Policy Council's Farm Fresh LA! Initiative.
  3. There were also several proposals working to alleviate food insecurity by capturing and redistributing food that would otherwise be wasted. The “access to healthy food" and “food insecurity" impact metrics were selected by 25 applicants each. Some of the applicants aiming to improve local food distribution include Hollywood Food Coalition, Venice Family Clinic, Sowing Seeds of Change, FoodCycle, and others.
  4. Each year, the grants challenge receives proposals from organizations working with Angelenos experiencing homelessness. But this year, in particular, there was impressive diversity in the proposed services and programs. The organizations offering creative, holistic support to individuals experiencing homelessness include Jovenes Inc., Village for Vets, St. Francis Center, Back on My Feet, and Shower of Hope.
  5. We know that COVID-19 and the “Safer at Home" orders were particularly challenging for LA's older adult population. For that reason, it's encouraging to see an increase in the number of proposals focused on serving older adults. Asian Americans for Housing and Environmental Justice, Westside Pacific Villages, the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer's, and Next for Me are some of the groups working in this area.
  6. With housing costs in Los Angeles County continuing to rise, a number of organizations applied to expand tenant protections and increase the supply of affordable housing. Ideas range from providing legal services (Western Center on Law & Poverty) to building a brand new affordable housing development (Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects) and advocating for tenants to have first-right of purchase (LA Community Land Trust Coalition).

Learn more about all of the proposals:

The Little Angels Project will provide financial assistance to pet owners who have fallen on hard times with the ultimate goal of making Los Angeles a zero-kill city.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected seniors drastically. For its proposal, Westside Pacific Villages aims to keep seniors physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy and help them transition back to "normal" life post-pandemic.

Food on Foot will provide the tools and resources unhoused and low-income individuals need to become self-sufficient through housing, employment, life skills trainings, and more.

Through social media and its new digital app, Peer Health Exchange aims to deliver its health curriculum to increase young people's health knowledge and encourage help-seeking behaviors.

The food and water box from 501CTHREE delivers fresh food and up to 20 gallons of clean water per minute. Its proposal will launch food and water boxes to low-income communities that disproportionately experience contaminated water.

Whether it's to medical appointments, to and from the hospital, or nursing facilities, Lynsteb Inc. provides non-emergency medical transportation services for people with disabilities for its proposal.

By distributing "mental health first aid kits," Find Your Anchor seeks to offer support for Angelenos struggling with serious mental health issues and de-stigmatize conversations around mental health and suicide.

With the recent re-opening of Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall as a housing facility for homeless young women, Jovenes, Inc.'s proposal focuses on helping these youth meet their basic needs and reintegrate into the community.

By creating a safe parking program in San Gabriel Valley, the proposal from Foothill Unity Center, Inc. hopes to create a pathway to stable housing and reengagement for people sleeping in their vehicles.

As a food distributor, Hollywood Food Coalition applied to provide small- to medium-sized nonprofits in Los Angeles County with the fresh food their communities need.

For its proposal, Eayikes suggests coordinating between volunteers who make meals in their homes with partner organizations that deliver those meals to people experiencing homelessness.

CHYPchat is a unique online community from Creative Healing for Youth in Pain where teens with chronic pain can connect. This proposal focuses on mind/body connection, mental health, stress management, social connectedness, and a path to wellness for teens with chronic pain.

Baby2Baby's proposal seeks support for the organization' mobile distribution program, "Baby2Baby On-the-Go," that delivers baby food, diapers, and other items to families with young children.

The submission from House of Ruth Inc. focuses on helping survivors of domestic violence through survivor-driven, trauma-informed mobile advocacy, flexible funding assistance, and community engagement.

RuckusRoots's proposal, entitled "The Play with Your Food Project: Intergenerational Culinary, Visual and Movement Arts'' would provide free produce, healthy cooking classes, and interdisciplinary arts workshops for youth.

"Ready to Stay LA" from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) seeks to expand the organization's current infrastructure to help immigrant workers, youth, and families in LA County adjust their legal status under immigration reform and other measures.

If the Housing Authority of Los Angeles becomes a finalist, grant funds will support its Watts Rising Street Team, a group of resident ambassadors in Watts who focus on community engagement, trust-building, and adoption and utilization of new community investments.

With its proposal, Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services plans to offer individual and family counseling sessions, therapy, and psychiatric care to high-risk youth.

There are 200+ tool libraries across the nation, but none in LA County. With its proposal, The Maker's Hub would create LA's first tool library in Compton for its residents who want to garden, start a small business, teach a repair class, and more.

LA Compost is very passionate about, you guessed it, composting! For its proposal, the organization would establish new compost hubs and infrastructure throughout Los Angeles County, including expanding it's food scrap drop-off locations at LA-based farmers markets.

Next For Me hopes to offer its books, courses, and workshops to 50+ workers navigating employment in the next phases of their lives for its proposal.

In partnership with TRUST South LA, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, and CD Tech, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) hopes to support motions to use government-owned land to build affordable housing and drive community-serving economic development.

With its proposal, Village for Vets hopes to pilot its "Veterans Street Academy," a new program that would provide services and community-based solutions to support case managers who engage the most difficult homeless Veterans.

St. Francis Center is seeking funding to continue its breakfast and pantry programs as well as its comprehensive services such as showers, rental and utility assistance, phone access, and longer-term case management interventions for Angelenos experiencing homelessness.

In partnership with UCLA, Venice Family Clinic plans to fight food insecurity by connecting hundreds of households to free, nutritious meals.

Back on My Feet LA's proposal focuses on forming run/walk teams of volunteers and individuals experiencing homelessness that meet three times a week to create a positive relationship and community.

With its proposal, Western Center on Law & Poverty seeks to make sure that LA residents experiencing poverty are protected by California law, both during and after COVID-19.

Sowing Seeds of Change seeks to launch its "No-Cost Open Farmers Market" to divert food from landfills, create meaningful jobs, and provide food access to communities.

Vision To Learn bridges the gap in access to vision care for low-income communities. The organization applied to bring its programming to more local students.

The Shower of Hope's proposal supports delivery of its shower services and other resources to individuals experiencing homelessness.

Garden School Foundation proposes expanding its composting program to a second school site. Its current program shows how school composting can increase fresh food access, reduce food waste, drive climate action, and provide jobs for parents.

National Alliance of Mental Illness - SGV recognizes that there is a barrier to accessing mental health care for Angelenos who do not speak English. The organization's proposal seeks to translate its free mental health resources into multiple languages

In partnership with the US-Africa Institute, the National Association of Mental Illness, and others, We Can Foundation hopes to provide reproductive health and mental health support to youth in California.

Youth Emerging Strong applied with "Staying Strong," its proposal to ensure that the youth in its charge maintain the positive attitudes, behaviors, and connections that they develop while living in one of its homelike shelters.

Social Model Recovery Systems, Inc. hopes to connect Angelenos struggling with mental health and substance issues to accessible telehealth services at every step of their recovery journey for its proposal.

Asian Americans for Housing and Environmental Justice plans to provide business and professional skills for low-income, older and senior BIPOC LGBTQ+ to start-up or expand a nano-business through its submission.

People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) plans to create a Lived Expertise Advisory Board to strengthen its existing LeaseUp LA initiative, a countywide landlord engagement effort to expand the affordable rental market.

For their submission, Todo Verde and People's Yoga seek funding for their community-powered studio for wellness, learning, and production in East LA that will reimagine community wellness and economy.

Healing California applied to fund its work bringing free, high-quality dental and vision care to uninsured and underrepresented Angelenos.

Tree People seeks to activate Angelenos to help create a sustainable, edible urban forest by distributing fruit trees in "tree poor" neighborhoods.

Hospitality Industry Training and Education Fund hopes to continue providing healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals to at-risk people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by re-employing laid-off hotel and event center culinary professionals.

The proposal from Watts Labor Community Action Network, "MudTown Farms," seeks to train Watts residents in urban farming for economically and environmentally sustainable careers.

Esperanza Community Housing proposes to invest in its "Promotores de Salud (Community Health Promoters)" program to provide life-saving culturally accessible in-home health education, primary prevention and advocacy to families in South LA.

In collaboration with Commonwealth Nursery, City Plants seeks to expand nursery infrastructure to grow more climate-ready trees to distribute to Angelenos via LADWP's Free Trees Program.

The proposal from The Right Kind of Black Girl Inc., "Queens Building Queens (QBQ) program," hopes to provide a space for like-minded women to connect with one another and gain inspiration, skills and establish long-term professional connections.

In order to help Angelenos experiencing homelessness, The Center in Hollywood's proposal focuses on facilitating programs that assists individuals with decompressing, feeling safe, and overcoming social isolation.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles proposes to expand its Home Preservation Program, providing low-income households throughout Los Angeles County with interior and exterior repairs to their homes.

“Meal Nation," the proposal from Foster Nation, would ensure foster youth have at least one meal a day for 30 to 60 days, and the know-how to access public benefits such as CalFresh.

CultivaLA proposes using green spaces to empower immigrant and low-income communities across Los Angeles to grow and obtain fresh foods in their neighborhood..

Virtual YouthCare, the proposal from the Youth Movement Against Alzheimers, seeks to partner trained student volunteers with older adults who have early-to-mid stage dementia.

Blueprints For Pangaea at USC proposes sending excess, unused medical supplies to areas in need both locally and overseas.

LOVS applied with a plan for a pilot program to train psychotherapists of color with free, trauma-focused clinical training.

The application from Maxwell Vehicles suggests bringing electric vehicle tech to the ubiquitous white van at a discounted rate for nonprofits.

The Right Way seeks funding for its Operation Housing First program, which houses former foster youth at risk of homelessness and provides trauma-informed case management, employment, and mental health services.

The Changeist team seeks funding to pilot a new model of virtual mental health support, providing youth participants with easy access to a suite of high-quality, free services.

For this year's My LA2050 Grants Challenge, Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects seeks support for The Village, a community-oriented supportive housing concept that will provide safe and affordable housing for female-led households.

Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (Cast) proposes using My LA2050 funds to cover the cost of a full-time Youth Emergency Response Case Manager who will be dedicated to attending at least 100 youth survivors in crisis over one year.

For its proposal, United Way of Greater Los Angeles focuses on building a countywide approach to our most pressing challenges: housing affordability, low incomes, and shameful wealth gaps.

FoodCycle seeks funding to provide infrastructure to connect new food donors to nonprofit partners in need.

To serve EV drivers and the Los Angeles power grid, ElectricFish seeks to install its 350kW battery at various sites for its proposal.

The core of Voices Beyond Assault's proposal is providing emergency trauma relief for survivors in Los Angeles.

MoceanLab, Inc. seeks to provide three vehicles to LAUSD nurses, psychologists, and aides for its proposal.

“The Heroic Journey" by The Hero Coalition would feature evidence-based tools teaching mental health and social-emotional skills in a culturally-relevant way if selected as a finalist.

If The Niles Foundation LA wins, it will create MicroFoodFarmGarden Sites by transforming Angeleno's rooftops, yards, lawns, unused, or vacant lots into local food access and food secure spaces.

The Los Angeles Community Garden Council is seeking to expand the capacity of volunteers to serve the community via weekly empowerment workshops, food pantries, and much more.

To reduce the carbon footprint of LA, Project Ropa's proposal seeks to continue its recycling and distribution of clothing, shoes, and textiles to low-income and unhoused individuals.

YWCA of the Harbor Area seeks funding for its Healthy Futures Program, which provides healthy food and encourages recycling and composting.

The LA Community Land Trust Coalition from Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust, Liberty Community Land Trust, T.R.U.S.T. South, LA El Sereno Community Land Trust, and Fideicomiso Comunitario Tierra Libre aims to empower tenants to have the first right to purchase their building to multi-generational wealth.

"Farm Fresh LA!" from the Los Angeles Food Policy Council seeks to connect California farmers of color to CalFresh shoppers at Healthy Neighborhood Market Network stores.

If Growing the Table is selected as a finalist, the organization will partner with Farm2People to create a weekly flow of produce from BIPOC and women farmers to food insecure families.

LA Room and Board is on a mission to end housing insecurity among community college students. Its proposal seeks to scale its unique housing model and serve more students at-risk of and experiencing homelessness.

Pacific Urbanism plans to advance understanding in LA of how land use, zoning, and code should change to produce both climate resilient outcomes and healthy communities.

Food Sector Systems, LLC applied to fund its "Corner Farm" project and provide fresh, nutrient-dense, vitamin-rich agricultural products in a modular unit.

Downtown Crenshaw Rising seeks support for its bid to purchase the CrenshawMall and provide a new model of Black community ownership and economic development.

Celebrating the LA2050 Safer At Home Heroes

Posted March 30, 2021 by Team LA2050

It has been just over one year since the City of Los Angeles put Safer at Home orders in place as the devastation of COVID-19 began to spread.

To commemorate this somber anniversary, we wanted to honor the Angelenos who have stepped up to care for each other and serve our region over the past year. We designated these selfless, inspiring individuals our LA2050 Safer At Home Heroes and asked the LA2050 community to provide nominations on our Instagram.

The nominees represent the best of all of us — from brave frontline medical staff to essential workers in all sectors, educators creating the best virtual classrooms possible, chefs providing meals to those in need, and families caring for at-risk loved ones. Through random selection, we awarded 10 nominees with $50 gift cards to Gifts for Good as a small token of our appreciation. Now, we're grateful to share the inspiring and moving submissions we received.

A huge thank you to all of the nominators and nominees!

Meet the LA2050 Safer At Home Heroes:

@ccolmery: I nominate @alinasato for her good and hard work at CHLA as an RN. Through every COVID spike and threat of illness she showed up and serves her patients with heart.

@alecia076: I nominate Patricia Dixon from @caaquatictherapy She has worked tirelessly to ensure residents with special health needs are able to access wellness services, food and care. Pat is an #la2050saferathomehero 😍

@nelson_pulga: @champagneebri proud of my niece for helping the homeless youth throughout this whole pandemic & helping them get resources they need.

@tafaraibayne: @czarjonesiii for providing thousands and thousands of meals to residents of Watts over the last 12 Months (with his team at @eastsideriders) and still finding time to host youth-focused community bike rides. Dude is my hero for reals.

@luvabull_23: I would like to nominate my Husband @damn_its_rod as he is an essential worker. He is a mechanic at the airport so he always had to report to work last year and currently. He works very hard even at home as he helps people with their cars, sometimes not even charging for his labor. He is truly a selfless person and I would love this for him as I'm a stay-at-home Mom so I can't always provide #LA2050SaferAtHomeHero.

@farrahwayy: I nominate @heleoleyva for hosting community cookouts throughout the pandemic to feed those in need.

@lvasquez90032: I would like to nominate @jacobtoups as a #la2050saferathomehero he took the last year to bring LGBTQ youth together and create a BRAVE space for them. He has built an organization @rainbow_labs that brings those youth voices to a larger platform. Across the nation there are only 5 LGBTQ mentoring programs for every 5000 programs. There's a need and it's been incredible to witness Jacob's commitment to support and elevate all of their voices!

@jumamock5: I nominate @jerimtz who was part of the 1st team in our department to work with people who were recovering from severe covid. He has dedicated all of his time over the past year to provide physical therapy services to almost 150 people from the LA area. He is my hero and it is an honor to work with him.

@emwildflower: I nominate @punsandproses for working tirelessly to bring arts education virtually to youth in the South Bay.

@emwidlflower: I nominate @sarah.tapiapruett for fighting for her students while safely loving her community and friends.

And, meet the rest of the inspiring nominations:

@arianadelawari: @wyllalourdes I nominate Wylla my late mom's nurse at Kaiser. She was so attentive and helpful throughout the time of losing our mom. It was so confusing being isolated away from her while she was in the hospital and it means so much to have a great nurse who was helping us navigate communication while being on the frontlines herself and caring for her own family ❤️

@lorenzo_e_hernandez has been leading his team to distribute support the families affected by COVID. Meeting with families in-person to distribute more than $2.2 million in grocery cards, rental relief and utilities relief Lorenzo and his team have eased the suffering of the pandemic.

@swellmel2014: I nominate @NVCSinc - On March 19, 2020 they set up a drive-thru food pantry which has served over 33,000 families from 118 zip codes throughout Los Angeles. Tomorrow marks the 100th drive-thru pantry. Sad that we have food insecure families but grateful for outreach by this remarkable non-profit!

@raquelitab1: @atziricamarema has been on disaster worker assignment from @empowerla for over 10 months serving our unhoused neighbors of LA. She has ascended into a supervisor role leading several project roomkey locations which was only possible because of her compassion, discipline, and strong work ethic. Thank you for the opportunity to recognize Atziri for her service.

@simon2587 Last year, Simon decided to continue his passion for nursing and caretaking. I nominate Simon because he's a caregiver to his grandparents, a student, a murse, and event planner. From getting groceries and translating mail/tv for his grandparents to bring a full-time nurse at a hospital and a student on top of it he's helped make pandemic drive-thru birthdays for people of all ages. Not only is Simon a front-line worker, he's an extraordinary friend and grandson, and though there were moments where he struggled, he was able to triumph because he knew what it meant for his loved ones. I'm so proud of you Simon! ❤️

@chancekawar: I nominate Marilú Guevara, executive director of @LWVlosangeles. I'm proud to have witnessed her leadership engaging & educating local voters during an election season like no other we've seen before. With limited resources during the ongoing pandemic, she has continued to be a powerful voice defending our democracy and an informed political discourse.

@mostlyfinnrarelytara: @allenlnarcisse and Casey Williams @lyft for their great work supporting voting and vaccine access.

@shaunanep: I nominate @annasilverman for implementing such smart Covid safe strategies for her family during such a difficult year ❤️

@tobermancenter: @big_c2c has been a guiding light this year. He has created processes so people will receive direct financial aid quickly and with minimal contact. He ensures that anyone going hungry receives home-delivered food from the food pantry. Carlos gives hope and leadership to all he meets.

@katt.montoya: I nominate @carmene.montoya for working two jobs and one of them being an essential grocery store worker! Thank you for working and helping us get the essentials we needed during a pandemic.

@ericjsal: I nominate @champagneebri for not taking a day off AND working so hard through this pandemic.

@fileleyva4030: I nominate @communitycookouts The Leyva brothers have distributed over 5,000 meals to people in need in the East Hollywood area.

@danigonzalezg: I also nominate @communitycookouts !! They have been sharing incredible street food meals to neighbors in need in EaHo every Tuesday! 5000+ meals so far.

@emwidlflower: I nominate @den__nice for graduating in a pandemic and still being the best 6th-grade teacher ever.

@zerowastemicaela: @ecourbangardens I nominate Liz Christy, program manager at Eco Urban Gardens, a school garden nonprofit that serves the El Monte community! EUG cultivates green spaces and grows healthy organic food. Liz has been working really hard to keep the gardens and virtual education programs running during the pandemic!

@punsandproses: I nominate @emwildflower for her constant commitment to bettering the lives of the children she serves as an Urban Theatre Program director. She works ceaselessly to enrich and provide for the “neighborhood kids" that fill every centimeter of her gigantic heart. She's an inspiration ♥️

@phillycheesecake: I nominate @heleoleyva of @quesadillastepexco and @communitycookouts for bringing the community of East Hollywood free hot meals EVERY WEEK despite a pandemic that put him and his crew out of work.

@mostlyfinnrarelytara: @ilovemikeandlily for delivering meals with @projectangelfood and volunteering with @makegoodinc.

@niduh: I nominate @irfan_ahmed for being a doctor on the frontline during this pandemic!

@emwildflower: I nominate @isaiah.murtaugh for fighting to cover voting rights and the 2020 election in the middle of a pandemic.

@lalaleann: I nominate @sarah.tapiapruett for being an incredible educator and mama to baby Noemí! All at the same time 🥰

@mostlyfinnrarelytara: @jenniferbblackburn and the team @larchmontschool for raising grocery money for our school's families.

@tobermancenter: @leslieeeanaya has brought a smile to many people's faces this year with her caring and support. She has helped seniors sign up for COVID vaccinations, helped people get free tax preparation, grocery cards and rent. Leslie brightens up the day as she supports the distribution of over 200 meals daily!

@smgrams: I nominate @lizschwandt for going above and beyond providing safe and nurturing childcare at @sijccece AND in her free time creating a volunteer organization (Get Out The Shot LA) to help folks with finding vaccine appointments. Truly making our city safer and more equitable during this crisis! 🙌 Thank you, Liz!

I nominate Aaron Valencia of @lost_angels_childrens_project ...when the pandemic hit and families had to stay at home, Aaron immediately put resources together to support food-insecure families. He set up a meal delivery service in the City of Lancaster that kept many people from going hungry. He is an #la2050saferathomehero 😎

@alturiconsulting: Nominating @mellemusic for doing all she possibly can since the very start to ensure as many Angelenos in need as possible have food. She has been an inspiration in her nonstop efforts to feed those in need and by collaborating with others to ensure that those in need have access to food. ❤️

@katt.montoya: I nominate @ms._bee_ for never once stopping to work as a medical assistant and helping patients get the care they need. Thank you for caring for the whole family as well!

@mostlyfinnrarelytara: @alexmarx.la for sharing her food when we couldn't get the groceries we needed.

@geemd: @quesadillastepexco are street vendors turned community chefs. They've served hot, delicious and nutritious FREE meals to thousands of community members in East Hollywood at their weekly cookouts 🧡

@goretti.25: I nominate @quesadillastepexco @communitycookouts for feeding those in need even as the Leyva brothers were struggling themselves during the pandemic. They hosted community cookouts where free food was given no questions asked. 👏👏

@rcheratyou: I also nominate @quesadillastepexco @communitycookouts for supplying meals for those in need in East Hollywood. The kindness and compassion they have for our community is such an inspiration. We need more people like the Leyva brothers! 🔥🙌❤️

@emwildflower: I nominate @sayyescenter.picounion for caring for the kids in our city who are most vulnerable.

@_thehyepriestess_: I nominate the team at @smileandwonder for creating a safe space for kids to learn and play. Eternally grateful to Nicole and Ana! 👏❤️

@stellamarine: I nominate @stoicspam who has been advocating for and supporting tenants in crisis during this whole pandemic both in her own community and across LA!

@emwildflower: I nominate @tapiapruett for graduating during a pandemic and jumping right into teaching.

@d1.zayzay: I nominate my Public health professor and mentor @thatprettytr3. She has been volunteering at various Covid-19 testing sites while creating content videos for her community about Covid-19. She is also continuing to provide STEM classes to underserved youth in Los Angeles county. She has been on the front lines since the pandemic began and has been servicing the people of Los Angeles. She has not missed one step in any role assigned to her. She is more than deserving.

@_marilynthompson_: I nominate @twinspire_ a non-profit organization serving marginalized and foster youth virtually by equipping them with financial literacy and life skills to pursue educational and career opportunities in the midst of the pandemic. They are committed to equipping the next generation of youth with the tools required to be mindful leaders and phenomenal students. ✊🏽💕

@stephgwieland: I nominate @twinspire_. Founded by twin brothers Demontae and Demontray, Twinspire is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to serving foster youth and marginalized youth throughout the city to provide them with educational support, financial literacy, and life skills. Demontae and Demontray have been working tirelessly through this pandemic to ensure their participants have the tools they need to not only survive, but to thrive.

​Nominate an LA2050 Safer at Home Hero!

Posted March 14, 2021 by Team LA2050

We need your help to recognize and reward the heroes who have stepped up to serve their fellow Angelenos during COVID-19.

On March 19, 2020, at 11:59 pm, the City of LA's Safer at Home orders began. The nearly one year since has brought immense suffering and tragedy. But, life during the pandemic has also brought countless examples of hope and help, of sacrifice and selflessness, and of communities caring for one another.

From brave frontline medical workers to essential grocery store staff, families coping together with online school, older adults making phone calls to check-in on neighbors, and college students volunteering at testing sites, Angelenos have stepped up to care for each other and for our communities. We're designating these incredible individuals our LA2050 Safer At Home Heroes.

As a small gesture of respect and gratitude to all the heroes among us, LA2050 is giving away 10 $50 gift cards to Gifts for Good, an online marketplace to purchase meaningful products from socially-conscious companies.

To join in: Nominate an #LA2050SaferatHomeHero by tagging someone in the comments on our @LA2050 Instagram post and briefly explaining why this person is deserving. You can nominate as many people as you want (one comment per nomination, please!).

Nominations will close on Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 3 pm, so make sure to comment before then. We'll randomly select 10 winners after the drawing closes and post the results on Friday, March 19, 2021. Nominations will be accepted on the honor system (we're trusting that you're providing us with true information). We reserve the right to remove inappropriate or unkind comments from the drawing.

Most importantly, a huge THANK YOU to everyone out there who has been a hero in our communities during this time.

21 Spots Where Women Made History in Los Angeles

Posted March 13, 2021 by LeAnn Kelch

To celebrate Women's History Month 2021, we've compiled a map of 21 spots where bold, visionary Angelenas past and present made their impact. Check it out!

  1. Van Nuys Airport – Several trailblazing female aviators, including Amelia Earheart and Bobbi Trout, broke records flying in and out of the Van Nuys Airport.
  2. Great Wall of Los Angeles – The landmark mural, painted by artist and activist Judith Baca in the 1980s, stretches 2,754 feet and tells the story of LA's history through panels of vibrant scenes.
  3. UCLA – Last year, UCLA professor Andrea Ghez became the fourth woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics for her contribution to discoveries about black holes.
  4. Pann's Restaurant – Helen Liu Fong, the Chinese-American architect behind Pann's and other futuristic buildings, was a leading figure in LA's 1950s Googie architecture trend.
  5. Hattie McDaniel Residence – The beautiful West Adams home belonged to Hattie McDaniel, the first Black Academy Award winner for her role in Gone with the Wind.
  6. Former Friday Morning Club (now Variety Arts Building) – The Friday Morning Club was founded by Caroline Severance in 1891 as a women's club and became a national hub of suffrage organizing. When women's suffrage was granted in 1911, Caroline Severance was honored as the first woman in LA to register to vote.
  7. Dodgers Stadium – Rosalind Wiener Wyman, the youngest ever LA City councilmember, the second female councilmember, and the first Jewish female councilmember, was instrumental in bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles in the 1950s.
  8. Los Angeles Plaza Park – In 1911, Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez gave the first speech in Spanish in California advocating for women's suffrage at the park, now part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.
  9. Biddy Mason Memorial Park – Biddy Mason, known as the “Grandmother of Los Angeles," was born a slave but argued for and won her freedom once in LA, eventually becoming a wealthy landowner and local philanthropist. The park is located on the homestead she purchased in 1866.
  10. The Woman's Building – Established in 1973, The Woman's Building fostered experimental lesbian and feminist art for nearly 20 years as an act of resistance to the exclusive, male-dominated art scene.
  11. Former Los Angeles Public Library, Temple and Main – Mary Foy was appointed the first female head librarian of the City of Los Angeles Public Library in 1880, back when it was just three rooms above a saloon.
  12. Nevin Ave. Elementary School – Bessie Burke, the first Black teacher and principal in the LA public school system, became principal at Nevin Ave. Elementary in 1938.
  13. Former barbershop, Brooklyn Ave. in East LA – Chicana lesbian activist and gender-nonconformist Nancy Valverde stood up against discrimination and police harassment and in 1951, proved it was not a crime for women to wear men's clothing.
  14. Resurrection Catholic Church – In 1986, the Mothers of East Los Angeles (MELA) launched at Resurrection Catholic Church to stop the construction of a state prison. MELA continued on to become a powerful environmental justice advocacy group.
  15. S. Lake Ave, Pasadena – The current district office of Congresswoman Judy Chu, the first Chinese-American woman elected to the United States Congress.
  16. Huntington Library and Gardens – Octavia E. Butler, iconic Black female science fiction writer, grew up in Pasadena. Her literary archive resides at the Huntington Library.
  17. Mission San Gabriel – At the site of Mission San Gabriel in 1785, Tongva/Kizh medicine woman Toypurina led a rebellion against the colonial rule of Spanish missionaries.
  18. Ranchito del Fuerte – The property was once home to Harriet Williams Russell Strong, the primary innovator of dry land irrigation and water conservation techniques in late 19th century Southern California.
  19. Compton City Hall – In 1965, Doris A. Davis was elected mayor of Compton and became the first Black female mayor of a metropolitan city in the United States.
  20. East Rancho Dominguez Park – Venus and Serena Williams began their extraordinary tennis careers playing at the courts in East Compton.
  21. Former Douglas Aircraft Company (now Boeing) – The women who worked in manufacturing at the Douglas Aircraft Company during WWII helped to inspire the famed “Rosie the Riveter" figure.

Impactful Updates from our 2020 My LA2050 Winners!

Posted February 17, 2021 by Team LA2050

Over the past six months, our 2020 My LA2050 grantees have been hard at work implementing their winning ideas from last year's grants challenge. Now, we're checking in on the progress of our first-place and second-place winners!

Click on the links below to read each individual grantee update:

PLAY

City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks

Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation

CREATE

Las Fotos Project

Lost Angels Children's Project

CONNECT

Ready to Succeed

Union Station Homeless Services

LEARN

Pediatric Therapy Network

Southern California College Access Network (Project SOAR)

LIVE

Clínica Romero

Crop Swap Los Angeles

If your organization has a bright idea like our 2020 winners, then we want to know! Submit a proposal to the 2021 My LA2050 Grants Challenge, and this time next year, we could be sharing your updates.

Clínica Romero Combats the Spread of COVID-19

Posted February 16, 2021 by Clínica Msr. Oscar A. Romero

Impact of COVID-19:

1 of 3 Los Angeles residents have been infected with COVID-19, according to the Los Angeles Department of Health Services. To make matters worse, the infection rate for residents in Clínica Romero's service area is alarmingly higher than the Los Angeles County rate. Scientific modeling highlights that the region will continue to be a coronavirus hotspot, straining the local healthcare system.

The CDC lists the following key factors in the high transmission of COVID-19: resistance to face coverings, fatigue, colder weather, poverty, people living in close quarters. Clinica Romero's Alvarado & Marengo clinics are both located within Los Angeles Planning Area 4 (SPA 4)—one of the most densely populated and impoverished areas of the city. Some community members in the service area have reported waiting hours to be seen by a healthcare worker and then waiting again for an available hospital bed. Ambulances in our service area no longer transport people with little chance of survival. ICU capacity is nearly at its limit. COVID-19 has created dire circumstances in the service area, especially gripping the vulnerable at-risk populations.

Clínica Romero serves over 10,000 unduplicated patients annually. Our patients are predominantly low-income, 100% live at or below the Federal Poverty Level. Roughly 7% of our patients experience homelessness and over 40% of patients do not qualify for health insurance due to their immigration status (the highest percentage of undocumented clients of any clinic in Los Angeles). 96% of our patients are Latinos. According to the CDC, disproportionate numbers of Latino Americans are dying from COVID-19. Twenty-five percent of the deaths from coronavirus have been Latinos, in spite of the fact that Latinos only make up 18% of the population. Many Latinos are contracting COVID-19, because they are the essential workers, leaving their houses every single day to work in service industries. The other reason is health care coverage and pre-existing conditions. There are still too many Latinos who don't have health insurance coverage and that means they don't have access to primary care services that provide preventive services. This often results in undiagnosed or uncontrolled chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, which puts individuals at higher risk of suffering dire consequences if they contract COVID-19. The impact of the pandemic on the Latino population has been catastrophic.

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Clínica Romero provided some remarkable services to the community in 2020:

• Over 24,000 telehealth/teledentistry visits delivered to Clínica Romero patients.

• Roughly 14,000 individuals and families received outreach and education information workshops and materials on topics such as COVID-19 prevention and awareness.

• 2,400 hot meals were distributed to those experiencing homelessness and facing food insecurity.

• Over 900 food vouchers and cash aid assistance distributed to low-income immigrant families who were economically affected by COVID-19.

• 1,300 individuals experiencing homelessness and street vendors received educational materials and PPE including masks, face shields, and hand sanitizers.

• Both Clínica Romero locations are fully staffed and administered same day onsite COVID-19 testing

Implementation of Telehealth:

Clínica Romero initiated primary care telehealth services in March 2020, in direct response to COVID-19, targeting both existing and new patients. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced an increase in utilization of our telehealth services by patients and saw continued growth throughout the year. Between April 2020 to December 2020, Clínica Romero delivered over 24,000 telehealth visits. Presently, Clínica Romero delivers over 3,000 telehealth visits per month and increased demand for telehealth services continues to rise.

The vast majority of Clínica Romero telehealth services are delivered via phone calls given the digital divide experienced by our patient population. Many of our patients face compounded barriers and challenges that limit their options to only phone calls. The two leading obstacles are securing a phone/connection device followed by a lack of digital literacy. Clínica Romero Promotoras (Community Health Workers) have been mobilized to provide outreach and education to patients and community members. Their work focuses on informing patients about the availability of telehealth services, instructions for how to make an appointment, and outlining simple steps that will allow patients to connect to their doctors.

Thanks to funds provided by LA2050, Clínica Romero has started offering video telehealth services to new and existing patients. This program is available to patients who have moderate to high digital literacy skills (in order to download necessary applications such as Health Zoom), have an internet connection, and a smart device that allows them to access services. Fewer patients have taken advantage of this expanded option but we are working diligently to improve access to video telehealth services for our patients.

“My name is Natalia Lozada and I have been a Clínica Romero patient for 5 years.

The pandemic has taken a lot from me, including the ability for me to visit Clínica Romero and see my doctor in person. I just learned how to use technology on my cell phone so when I was told that I could see my doctor for a digital health visit, I thought it would be too difficult for me. But Clínica Romero offered me so much support. The promotoras, nurses, and doctors were very patient with me and guided me on logging into my visit. I learned how to use the MyChart application and now I can schedule my appointments and have a video call with my doctor. I really liked the video service because I can see my doctor and it's very much like being able to see her in person. I truly appreciate this new way of communicating and staying in touch with my doctor so I can stay healthy.

I appreciate Clínica Romero so much for providing this service and making me feel special. I invite other community members to try telehealth! I am proof that with support, we can connect ourselves to our doctors."

What's next for Clínica Romero:

Clínica Romero is committed to providing the highest quality care to its patients despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of February 2021, Clínica Romero is now a vaccination site in Los Angeles and have begun the administration of the vaccine to our patients at two clinic sites:

Marengo Clinic located at 2032 Marengo St. Los Angeles, CA 90033

Alvarado Clinic located at 123 S. Alvarado St. Los Angeles, CA 90057

We are also in the development stage of becoming a Monoclonal Antibody (mAb) Infusion Center that will provide COVID-19 treatment option to some of the most vulnerable individuals in Los Angeles. Early evidence suggests that mAb treatment can reduce the amount of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a person's body.

The past year has been challenging and exhausting for everyone, including us. But in the spirit of Msr. Oscar A. Romero, we will continue to fight against health access injustice and provide high quality care to our patients. We are thankful for partners like LA2050, who have invested in Clínica Romero during one of the most critical times in our organization's 38-year history. This grant has allowed us to advance the care that we provide during COVID-19 and make Los Angeles a healthier, more equitable place to LIVE!

Visit www.clinicaromero.com to learn more about our services or follow us on Instagram (@clinica_romero) and Twitter (@ClinicaRomero) to keep up with our work in Los Angeles.



Project SOAR Supports the College and Career Aspirations of Residents in Public Housing

Posted February 16, 2021 by Southern California College Access Network

Project SOAR is a college access program focused on supporting the college and career goals of residents in public housing. Currently, the program is operating at five public housing sites in downtown, East LA and South LA. SOAR serves any resident regardless of age, education level, or citizenship status. In addition to working with students in 9-12th grade, SOAR provides one-on-one advising for returning adult learners, community college and transfers students, and residents interested in vocational training or certificate programs.

Program Progress

Since SoCal CAN was awarded the LA2050 grant in July 2020, Project SOAR has used a portion of the funds to create a special, paid position for SOAR students and parents. At the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester, the SOAR team designed the SOAR Ambassador Program with the goal of hiring six students and six parents. These student and parent ambassadors would support Project SOAR through promotion, recruitment, and social media efforts at Nickerson Gardens, William Mead, Ramona Gardens, Gonzaque Village and Avalon Gardens. After a successful application and interview process in October 2020, Project SOAR welcomed twelve Ambassadors to the program and hosted two separate virtual Ambassador Orientations for both parent and student participants.

SOAR Education Program Specialists, Maria Perez, Marvin Ramirez, and Stephanie Guzman leading Ambassador Virtual Orientations, October 2020. Parents Ambassadors (top), Student Ambassadors (bottom).

Project SOAR Ambassadors provide critical insight into the climate and needs of the communities the program serves. They've helped staff identify new strategies and ideas for connecting with residents at each site. All six student ambassadors have been SOAR participants for multiple years. Five of them are currently attending local colleges that SOAR helped them apply to and enroll in. The student and parent ambassadors have also helped the SOAR team refine and adapt the program by providing meaningful feedback on their own experiences and sharing what additional resources or supports are needed to better serve future students and families. If you're interested in experiencing the Ambassadors in action, follow us on Instagram (@projectsoarla). During February 2021, the Ambassadors are “taking over" the IG posts and stories to share their personal experiences with college and Project SOAR.

SOAR Student Ambassadors: Brisa Bernal, Thuy Tran, and Jocelyn Benavides (left to right).

COVID-19 & Technology Support

As COVID-19 continued to provide increasingly insurmountable challenges to accessing technology for remote learning, Project SOAR worked steadfastly at identifying partnerships and opportunities to help SOAR students stay connected and enrolled in school. This past November, we were delighted to be identified as one of HACLA's community partners successfully serving residents on the ground and were able to work in collaboration with HACLA to provide refurbished laptops to students in need. Through a grant awarded to HACLA, Project SOAR was able to identify and distribute refurbished laptops to 100 SOAR students across our five main housing sites.

Many households reported sharing one laptop between multiple members in the household, significantly reducing each student's ability to access courses and complete school-related tasks. The laptop distribution was a highlight of the fall semester, bringing a moment of relief and encouragement to a hundred students and families facing an unimaginably difficult year.

A stack of refurbished laptops ready for distribution at Nickerson Gardens computer lab.

In addition to remote learning challenges, many SOAR families faced cuts in employment and income due to COVID-19. While SOAR offers resume support and assistance with applying to vocational and technical programs for all residents, many certificate or training programs have additional tool/supply costs not covered by financial aid. Thankfully, through a partnership with the SOLA I CAN Foundation, Project SOAR was able to provide an amazing $5,000 scholarship opportunity to residents impacted by Covid-19 and in search of educational opportunities to advance their career and employment options.



Below: SOAR/SOLA I CAN Scholarship program flyer made possible by a generous donation from Oprah Winfrey.

Both parent and student ambassadors assisted the SOAR team in promoting the scholarship and referring residents to the scholarship who they knew had lost work due to Covid-19. Through the partnership with SOLA I CAN, SOAR was able to secure 10 scholarship spots specifically reserved for SOAR participants. In addition to financial award, the scholarship also provides intensive case-management support to and through the program, career coaching, and employment assistance. Applications are still being reviewed, but we look forward to hearing which SOAR participants receive the award and celebrating their success.

Challenges and Lessons

As Project SOAR continues to have decreased access to residents and in-person programming, we are faced with increased challenges in recruitment and outreach.

While the SOAR team has been able to continue to support the students and families already connected with SOAR, we are deeply concerned about the number of residents who are in need of support, but whom we are unable to reach through the usual community events, meetings, and social gatherings no longer happening on site.

One thing we have learned from the past six months is the value of adaptability, especially when it comes to the programs and services SOAR provides. As a college access program, we remain committed to increasing the number of residents attending and graduating college, but we also realize the numerous additional factors that impact any person's ability to focus on educational goals and attainment. In the past months, we have only just begun to adapt our programs and services to meet the immediate and basic needs of students and families and will continue to seek out strong partnerships with organizations who can help provide holistic support to our residents.

Union Station Homeless Services Fosters Community Connections

Posted February 16, 2021 by Union Station Homeless Services

In 2015, Natasha arrived at Union Station Homeless Services looking for a pathway to recovery and some assistance to get back on her feet. She quickly found much needed shelter and services at our Adult Center bridge housing program. Before too long, Natasha was well on her way to recovery and a place she could call home.

Over time, Natasha formed a close friendship with Karen, a community volunteer who worked in the Adult Center kitchen. Natasha credits this relationship with providing her guidance and support as she moved into her own apartment, settled into her new community, and grew into the person she is today. Natasha's relationship with Karen serves as ongoing inspiration for Union Station's Community Allies Program, a LA2050 Challenge grantee in the CONNECT category. To learn more about what our program is achieving in our community – and to hear more about Natasha's experience with her ally, Karen - we invite you to view this new video available on our YouTube channel and this article recently published in Pasadena Weekly.

“It's a wonderful friendship to have, because I grew up without a family. My siblings were separated from me at a really young age. So, to have that commitment with someone else, to be able to share your thoughts and dream, it makes me a better person to know that I am loved and cared for and guided every step of the way." – Natasha Head

Our Mission

The mission of the Community Allies Program is to support and empower individuals and families to combat isolation while achieving self-sufficiency, housing stability, and overall wellness by fostering one-on-one relationships, developing social networks, and building community. In this way, Community Allies is transforming the traditional one-on-one mentor relationship. This year, despite the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Allies program is continuing to change lives. In recent months participants have reported that their allies and additional telephone pals have become an important lifeline as isolation, anxiety and depression rates have increased across all sectors of the population.

Now more than ever before, it is the human connection that goes beyond service provision that truly sets Community Allies apart.

“(We have) case managers helping recently housed clients but there's a whole other piece that case managers can't always provide. We established Community Allies to provide a sense of ongoing belonging and friendship in a new community. Pairing a client with a friendly face in the community really helps clients create a wonderful transition into housing." – Dana Bean, Union Station Homeless Services

Challenges

The essence of Union Station's Community Allies Program is human connection, and this has presented a unique challenge during the current pandemic. The health and safety of our community is our number one priority, and we have had to make significant adjustments to how we provide services over the past 10 months as we have had to forego all in-person group activities and one-on-one visits. Nonetheless, during this time, our volunteer community allies have been working hard making connections with program participants while also following CDC guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy.

We are pleased to report that our Community Allies Program is continuing to match volunteer allies with newly housed individuals and families to provide an additional layer of support, mentorship and community integration assistance. Many of these relationships are new and have been born of the increased need during the pandemic and others are long-standing over the past two to three years.

Progress

In recent months, program staff have implemented creative online group activities (including a book club and writing group) and supported allies as they meet with program participants online through zoom calls and phone calls to maintain social distancing. Some allies and participants have also chosen to meet at a park or other public outdoor location following social distancing guidelines. In spite of recent challenges in reaching out in person to potential new volunteer allies and new participants, today we have 45 active program participants and 35 active community volunteers, with 25 current one-on-one matches between a community ally and a program participant. We have also celebrated the successes of many program participants, from getting the keys to a new apartment to new jobs… all from a safe distance.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about becoming a Community Ally, please visit https://unionstationhs.org/help/volunteer/volunteer-mentor-program/.

​Ready to Succeed Creates Connection and Community for Youth in Foster Care

Posted February 16, 2021 by Ready to Succeed

Thank you to everyone in the LA2050 community who supported Ready to Succeed (RTS) in securing this grant, which has been a source of stability for the many students relying on our support during the pandemic. As students prepare to launch their careers during this difficult economic period, we are not only coaching them to develop competitive skills and competencies – we are also physically connecting them to a community of mentors and professionals who can open doors and serve as advocates for them now and throughout their lives.

Summary of Activities & Progress

With this grant, we aimed to test and develop a sustainable, collaborative service model to integrate complementary organizational expertises, with the goal of multiplying each partner's impact and guaranteeing the holistic services that young adults need and deserve. Recognizing that social and emotional support are as important as career development in helping our students thrive, we planned to create a shared service model with Stepping Forward LA (SFLA), which provides mentoring and life skill development to current and former foster youth.

During the pandemic, as we increased communication with peer organizations to share resources and ideas, we identified a third partner, Los Angeles Room & Board (LARNB). The organization operates “Opportunity House," a 50-bed supportive housing community near UCLA for former foster and homeless youth in community college. LARNB proved an ideal third partner for this project: Through Opportunity House's residential structure, we are able to test our collaborative model in an environment where we can maintain consistent access to youth, easily observe and collect data, and address challenges in real time.

Opportunity House interns

In addition to each partner's core programming, over the last several months, we have collectively devoted intensive, shared services to a dedicated cohort of 10 students at Opportunity House. Weaving together a holistic combination of support, LARNB provides safe housing and healthy meals, academic support, and connection to resources; RTS provides career development; and SFLA provides life skill development workshops and group mentoring activities.

In alignment with RTS' career development mission, our collaborative model places work experience and learning at the center. We launched a paid internship program, hiring 10 exceptional Opportunity House residents. Under the guidance of SFLA, interns are developing and rolling out a mobile app designed to build skills and resiliency among youth in foster care through peer learning. In addition to providing youth with valuable resources and mentorship, the app will be a mechanism for our collaborative partners to integrate services on a broader scale. To complement this hands-on experience, RTS engages interns in individualized career exploration and guidance, bringing theory and practice together to make the career learning experience more effective. Using what we learn with this cohort, we plan to sustain the internship as a standing feature among our collaborative, serving multiple cohorts over time.

Organizational Growth

In addition to collaborative efforts, this grant also helped RTS build our capacity to meet growing demand for our Career Accelerator program as more students faced hardship and uncertainty during the pandemic. With LA2050 support, we quickly adapted our core curricula and successfully moved all programming online. We also significantly increased campus outreach, doubling our number of partnerships. As a result of our online infrastructure and partnership expansion, we received a record number of 79 applications for our 2020 Fall cohort (4X the previous year) and accepted 44 new Scholars, our largest-ever cohort.

Challenges & How We've Responded

As our partnership unfolded, we recognized that many students require additional academic and life skill support before they are ready for the more robust career programming we provide to our Career Accelerator Scholars who attend four-year colleges and are further along on their career journeys. Fortunately, our collaborative model allows these students to receive the support they need, when they need it, from our partners who specialize in these service areas. We also pivoted our initial approach to focus less on career development and more on career and self-exploration. By meeting students where they are, we are building their sense of agency through the self-discovery process. Eventually, we expect that more residents will be good candidates for our long-term programming, particularly after participating in the internship program.


Receiving first paycheck ever for work as Stepping Forward LA/Ready To Succeed/Opportunity House internship.

What's Next

▪ Virtual, collaborative programming: With the interns' forthcoming mobile app (launching March 2021), we will soon have the infrastructure to connect a much larger group of youth, program alumni, mentors, and professionals across each organization's networks, with the potential to serve an unlimited number of youth.

▪ Shared network integration: We continue to develop mechanisms to efficiently connect students to social and emotional support to combat isolation. Nine RTS alumni are helping us launch an official Alumni Collective, a network of our graduates who will plan social and networking events and serve as mentors and professional advocates for youth. Through this network and through connection opportunities provided by the new app, our alumni will be able to serve as positive examples to current foster youth in SFLA's community as well as to Opportunity House residents.

▪ Data evaluation: Through surveys, weekly check-ins, and information collected on our virtual career development platform, we are tracking key metrics: career exploration workshop completion, college persistence, internship/work experience, and social and emotional wellbeing. We are also working with partners to develop metrics for measuring the success of our collaboration itself so we can share lessons learned with peers and funders in our industry.

We are eager to share additional updates and data at the conclusion of the grant period. For more information on our work, please visit www.readytosucceedla.org or contact Romi Lassally at [email protected]

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