2022 Grants Challenge

Elevating Authentic Voices to End Homelessness

Ending homelessness requires dispelling myths about the causes and experience of homelessness and building support for equitable policy solutions. Changing public perception can only be achieved by ensuring those who have experienced homelessness have equitable access to opportunities to have their voices heard, educating the public, and impacting policy. Union Station will train and support people with lived experience to lead community engagement and discussion to create momentum for change.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Housing and Homelessness

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

San Gabriel Valley

Other:: North East Los Angeles

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

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

A history of inequities in income, wealth, and opportunity in LA County, only made worse by COVID-19, combined with a dire shortage of affordable housing have produced a devastating homelessness crisis. As we face this crisis, we have a number of proven solutions in our toolbox, such as permanent supportive housing developments. However, political and community opposition to such developments—often called “NIMBYism” (not in my backyard)—can impede providers’ ability to implement these solutions. This opposition is often based on incorrect assumptions about who people experiencing homelessness are and what such developments will bring to their neighborhoods, such as crime. As such, ending this crisis requires not only more housing and direct services, but broader community education and political will to be part of the solution. To dispel these myths and build community buy-in, we must humanize the experience of homelessness by elevating authentic voices of those with lived experience.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Union Station has served the community for nearly 50 years, offering interim through permanent housing and supports. We are therefore well positioned to lead regionally focused community engagement and advocacy efforts to build community buy-in for the programs and structural reform necessary to end homelessness in LA County by lifting up the voices of those with lived experience to lead these efforts. Our Lived Expertise Advisory Panel (LEAP) empowers individuals with lived experience of homelessness to serve as advocates for more equitable and informed housing policies. With the support of LA2050, we will provide LEAP members with advocacy training and facilitate opportunities for them to speak in public forums, using their unique insight to educate the public and change the narrative around homelessness. LEAP members will also conduct advocacy campaigns through a texting platform in order to connect with the public and present opportunities for civic engagement that support best practices and advance equitable policies to address the homelessness crisis. LEAP members will receive training and support – financial and other – that will allow them to be effective advocates for change. In addition, we will use our experience in combating NIMBYism and a successful history of affordable housing operation to create a toolkit that LEAP and community members can use to change the narrative and encourage a “Yes in My Back Yard” approach to creating housing opportunities for all.

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

Union Station aims to educate and engage the public in meaningful ways that will contribute to an end to homelessness in LA County. Through LEAP, we will help people with lived experience become effective community advocates who can educate others about the experience of homelessness, dispel myths, and work with decision-makers to advance solutions. Relying on the agency’s past successes, our creation of a toolkit to combat NIMBYism will be a resource we can share widely to fight opposition and support the development of affordable housing in our region and beyond. With LA2050 support, Union Station will provide community members with a comprehensive understanding of the experience of homelessness and foster greater support for equitable, and evidence-based practices that address its root causes. Our work will be a driving force in changing the narrative around homelessness and generating the support required to implement local solutions as well as 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 has a successful history of using innovative communications techniques and empowering people with lived experience to drive local policy priorities and win community support for new housing developments, including: • El Sereno Project Homekey Development – We built multi-level community buy-in for two new permanent supportive housing sites through community education and engagement efforts, and humanizing the face of homelessness. • Eagle Rock Tiny Home Village – We created a “Yes in my Back Yard” environment for the launch of an interim housing community through advancing community conversations involving local leaders. With LA2050 funds, we will: • Host one LEAP meeting per month; • Train LEAP members on texting and in-person advocacy; • Lead 10 text campaigns with a broad reach; • Engage LEAP members in 20-25 advocacy engagements; and • Create a communications toolkit that others can use to generate support for housing in their communities and combat NIMBYism.

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

Direct Impact: 15,000

Indirect Impact: 20,000