A daunting statistic loomed in guests’ minds at the L.A. Family Housing Awards on Thursday evening: 58,000 people in L.A. are currently homeless.
“That is like filling up every single seat Dodger stadium and putting seats in the infield and filling those up as well,” explained “The Wolf of Wall Street” actor P.J. Byrne, who also served as the night’s MC.
Attendees including “Twilight” actress Ashley Greene gathered at The Lot in West Hollywood and and helped raise more than $1M to support the org.
During the cocktail reception, guests sampled everything from gourmet grilled cheese to scallops and braised shortrib served up by vendors including Riva Bella, Kali Dining, Animal and Big Sugar Bakeshop and chef Gary Arabia.
Blair Rich, LAFH board member, event co-chair and Warner Bros. exec VP of marketing, told Variety that she first got involved with LAFH as a volunteer and then got her Warner Bros. team to pitch in as well by putting on a Christmas celebration for families at their shelter.
“A couple of us noticed that a lot of people were spending more and more money on each other for Christmas gifts,” Rich said. “We wanted to pick a local charity so that people could volunteer – something that people could access easily from the studio if they wanted to give their time.”
By keep families together and providing emergency, transitional and permanent housing as well as social and medical services, Rich said LAFH has a 92 percent success rate at permanently breaking the homeless cycle.
Following the cocktail reception and silent auction, Byrne prepped the crowd for the live auction by going over various paddle-raising styles and joking, “A lot of people stand up for homelessness. You guys sit down, and we want to reward you for it.”
LAFH resident April Garcia and event co-chair Matthew Irmas presented L.A. county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky with the Sydney M. Irmas Outstanding Humanitarian award.
Yaroslavsky admitted that he had previously avoided interactions with the homeless people he encountered in L.A., but said that type of behavior doesn’t make the problem go away and urged guests to be more proactive about tackling homelessness.
“If you never do make contact, you can ignore it,” he said. “We have not made eye contact with this issue.”
In order to combat the issue of homelessness in L.A., Yaroslavsky has championed Project 50, aimed at providing permanent housing for vulnerable populations, and Project 60, which aids homeless veterans.
As the evening came to a close, Rich left guests with a reminder of a reality faced by the thousands of people living on the streets of L.A.
“All of us here have one thing in common: after this event, we will all go home,” Rich said. “Think about it – then imagine having nowhere to go. Let’s not let another family face that reality.”
(Pictured: Arlen Escarpeta, Pooch Hall, Blair Rich, P.J. Byrne and Matt Walsh at the L.A. Family Housing Awards)