On Thursday night, Kristen Bell tossed on a ruffled purple shirt and Zoomed in from her living room. Ed Helms strummed a guitar while singing a twangy cover of “Freeborn Man” by Jimmy Martin. India Arie performed “Strength, Courage, & Wisdom” with her virtual band members supporting her from their individual homes. And JD McCrary showed off a glimpse inside his bedroom and an a capella rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”
These festivities were part of LA Family Housing’s virtual “Home Together” Fundraiser, hosted by P.J. Byrne. LAFH, which strives to help people on the streets of Los Angeles find shelter and support, typically throws an annual gala in April; this year, coronavirus had other plans. But that wasn’t enough to stop the founders from raising awareness — and funds — for the organization’s many initiatives.
The evening kicked off with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti informing attendees that the homelessness problem has been amplified in recent years and that it has become especially prevalent in the face of COVID-19. “Many who struggled before the pandemic are now being faced with the terrifying prospect of losing their homes,” he explained.
The recent numbers show that homelessness has increased in Los Angeles by 14% this year. And that figure, per Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, LAFH president & CEO, was pre-pandemic. “We all fear what the numbers are going to look like when COVID ends, when the eviction moratorium is lifted, when safer at home orders are lifted,” she tells Variety. The night, said Klasky-Gamer, was dedicated to all the Angelenos without a current home. “How can people be safer at home if they don’t have a home?” she proclaimed.
For the virtual soiree, participants purchased dinner, which was delivered by Postmates: a meal from Angelini Osteria, a wine package by In Good Taste, and dessert by Big Sugar Bakeshop. A portion of the proceeds supported LAFH. And as guests dined at home, they were treated to informative videos and heartwarming success stories, like one about a family who fell on hard times, rode the bus for shelter, and went on to transition into permanent housing with the help of LAFH. Bell was particularly touched by this story and urged people to consider donating anything they could to the cause: “It takes $6,000 to move one family home. That’s the first and last month’s rent, security deposit, and support to get them started. But any gift helps!” she exclaimed.
The event also acknowledged the Black Lives Matter movement, with Klasky-Gamer noting that “40% of those experiencing homelessness in LA are from the Black community” and that the recent protests “have given a voice to the call for change.”
Later, 12-year-olds Raegan Revord (“Young Sheldon”) and McCrary (“The Lion King”) wowed the crowd as they interviewed each other about their commitment to helping people that have fallen on hard times. “Ending homelessness is something I’ve been really passionate about for four or five years,” a wise-beyond-her-years Revord revealed. Byrne was so impressed with the duo’s activism that the host almost fell out of his chair, revealing that, yes, he did have shorts on underneath his suit and tie – a classic pandemic era videoconference maneuver.
Home Together met its fundraising goal of $250,000 raised the night of the virtual event on June 25. Combined with the $1 million already raised for April 2020 LAFH Awards gala (canceled due to COVID-19), LA Family Housing raised a total of $1.25 million in support of their work to end homelessness in Los Angeles.