LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2021 Grants Challenge

Union Station Homeless Services: Championing the Lived Experience to connect with community and advocate for change

Ending homelessness in LA County requires effective community engagement to educate people and dispel myths in order to build support for systemic change and equitable policy solutions. Union Station’s Lived Expertise Advisory Panel (LEAP) amplifies the voices of people who have experienced homelessness in an advisory capacity on policy and program planning. With LA2050 funds, we will provide training and civic participation opportunities to LEAP members and launch a texting campaign to educate and engage others in advocating for change.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

San Gabriel Valley

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Every day, Union Station sees the impact of widening inequities in income, wealth, and opportunity in LA County. Stagnant incomes have combined with the dire shortage of affordable housing to produce a devastating homelessness crisis. Despite LA County providers housing more individuals than ever before in 2019, the lack of affordable housing is outpacing the sector’s capacity, resulting in 82,995 individuals falling into homelessness. The pandemic has only exacerbated this issue. The inability to meet this growing demand highlights the need for broad, structural reform. A key barrier in creating the systemic change necessary to address this crisis is a lack of education and awareness among the public and policymakers on the experience of homelessness and the varied factors perpetuating it. As such, ending homelessness in LA County requires changing the narrative around homelessness to garner widespread support for more equitable and informed policy solutions.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

With nearly 50 years of direct service experience, Union Station is well positioned to lead regionally-focused advocacy efforts to advance the structural reform necessary to end homelessness in LA County. In the coming year, Union Station will pilot a program designed to empower individuals with lived experience of homelessness to serve as advocates for more equitable and informed housing, criminal justice, and drug policies. Union Station will offer members of our Lived Expertise Advisory Panel (LEAP) advocacy training and facilitate opportunities to speak at community events including city council meetings. LEAP members, who are individuals who are currently or have formerly experienced homelessness, will be paid a stipend for participation in monthly LEAP meetings and for speaking events, and will also receive a gift at the end of the year, such as furniture or other home goods, as compensation for their work. Given the expertise conferred by lived experience, Union Station believes LEAP members are uniquely equipped to educate others about the causes of and solutions to homelessness. To engage the broader community in this work, Union Station will launch a new texting platform to share information about advocacy and civic engagement opportunities, local elections and ballot initiatives, and community events. We aim to lead one texting campaign per month with the goal of changing the narrative around homelessness and advancing equitable policies at the local level.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 520

Indirect Impact: 5,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Union Station seeks to provide meaningful avenues for all community members to engage in the civic process and contribute to the development of a more equitable county. We aim to build a base of effective community advocates with lived expertise to educate others about the experience of homelessness, dispel myths, and work with policymakers to advance solutions at the local level to address this growing crisis. Key areas of focus include affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, criminal justice, and drug policy reform. By engaging with and educating community members on these critical issues, we seek to foster greater support among the public for models of service provision and polices that are evidence-based and informed by a comprehensive understanding of the experience of homelessness. If successful, this advocacy work will be a driving force in changing the narrative around homelessness and creating the public awareness and support required for broad, structural change.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Union Station seeks to measure the effectiveness of the proposed program in inspiring and mobilizing more community members to take an active role in identifying the systems that have failed people and advocating for equitable solutions. Ultimately, we seek to change the narrative around homelessness through public education and push for the policies and structural solutions necessary to address this crisis. Within the 12-month grant period, we aim to produce the following outputs: • Host one LEAP meeting per month for a total of 12 meetings; • Train at least five LEAP members on how to lead campaigns on the texting platform; • Lead one texting advocacy campaign per month, following training and the launch of the platform, for a total of 10 text campaigns; • Engage LEAP members in 1-5 speaking events per month for a total of 12-60 events; • Send at least 500 initial texts and 250 text responses per advocacy campaign for a total of 22,500 texts; and • Engage at least 500 individuals.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will you impact?​

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs

Neighborhood council participation


Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT