For the second year in a row, Los Angeles Family Housing held its virtual fundraiser “Home Together” in lieu of its annual awards gala due to continued restrictions on in-person gatherings stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization, which fights to end homelessness in Los Angeles, enlisted celebrity supporters, musicians, staff, sponsors and program participants for Thursday night’s festivities. LAFH aimed to raise over $1 million in donations.
“If someone would have told me last March that we would be having our second virtual event tonight, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are,” LAFH CEO and President Stephanie Klasky-Gamer said from the event’s neon-lit virtual stage.
Hosted by Matt Rodgers, the show featured video segments detailing the success stories of three LAFH participants and highlighting the efforts of its staff interspersed with appearances by celebrities including Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, Jordana Brewster, Jamie Chung, Jacques Slade, Melissa Joan Hart, Troian Bellisario, Camila Coelho, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Alycia Pascual-Peña.
“509,000,” Danson said. “That’s the number of affordable homes needed in LA to meet the needs of our lowest income neighbors. As I drive around Los Angeles and see what has become a literal humanitarian crisis, I’ve often asked myself, ‘How did we get here?’ Well, it’s about economics. The cost of housing keeps rising and the wages of working people just can’t keep up. So, what can we do? Well, by being here tonight and supporting LA Family Housing, you have already taken that first important step.”
Bell, who participated in the event’s first virtual iteration, praised LAFH’s personalized approach to transitioning its participants out of homelessness. “Everyone who experiences homelessness has a different path to permanent housing and stability,” she said. “LA Family Housing individualizes the experience by meeting with each person where they are and helps them on their unique path.”
A member of the organization’s Young Hollywood Action Committee, Bellisario taped her segment standing in front of LAFH’s campus where she said she had been putting together hygiene kits for people living outdoors. Bellisario introduced a video celebrating the work of the organization’s almost 480 staff members, whom she called, “true heroes,” saying, “because in the midst of a global pandemic, a national reckoning on racial injustice and pretty much an upheaval in almost every aspect of our daily lives, the LA Family Housing staff have kept on going.”
Brewster shared a clip following the emotional story of program participant Sheila and her young daughter, Destiny. This year, the domestic violence survivor and her daughter moved into their first permanent home in five years with the help of LAFH. “I feel like I’m in a dream, like I haven’t waken up,” Sheila said.
“I can’t believe I have my own keys now,” she added with a smile, holding up her set of keys.
Musical performers included Hootie & the Blowfish alum Darius Rucker, who sang his hit country song, “Wagon Wheel.” Grammy Award winner Letisi crooned an acoustic version of her song “Anything For You,” while pre-teen punk band The Linda Lindas rocked out in their backyard with “Rebel Girl.” Jazz musician Boney James closed out the night playing “Full Effect” on his saxophone.
To enhance the at-home viewing experience, guests could order meals from restaurant partners including Angelini Osteria, Big Sugar Bakeshop, Dulan’s on Crenshaw, Gasolina Cafe, GoldenRice Co., Hotville Chicken, Maker Wine, Nick +Stef’s Steakhouse, Oui! Cheese, Petrossian Restaurant & Boutique, Redbird and Socalo with up to 50% of the proceeds going directly to LAFH.
During a panel hosted by Kelli Poole, the Director of Racial Equity in Homelessness at Social Venture Partners Los Angeles, LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and LA City Council Member Nithya Raman discussed their efforts to combat homelessness.
Raman, whose 2020 campaign platform centered on addressing the city’s homelessness crisis, explained that deindustrialization, economic hardship and racist housing policies such as racial covenants had contributed to the disproportionate number of homeless Black people in Los Angeles. Black people currently make up 34% of the homeless population despite only representing 8% of LA’s total population.
“We have talked in this conversation about decades of systemic racism and underinvestment that led us to this perilous moment,” Raman said. “We are not going to fix it in two years but we will fix it and for the first time, we are putting real resources into the things that will fix it.”
Toward the end of the evening, “Home Together” co-chair and LAFH board member Blair Rich said, “Don’t ever believe the lie that homelessness is an unsolvable problem. It is completely solvable. And LA Family Housing is part of that solution. Affordable housing matched with a full continuum of social services. Homes solve homelessness.” Rich later teared up before concluding her speech.
Ahead of the event, Rich told Variety that she believes that the organization’s dual approach of securing affordable housing and providing supportive services has enabled LAFH to have a 95% success rate in permanently breaking the cycle of homelessness for its participants. However, with LA’s homeless population currently standing at 66,000, she stressed that everyone needs to do their part to help eradicate the problem, citing the many forms of that volunteerism can take from social media outreach to donations.
Rich added that “Home Together” producers Tawney Harrison and Curt Apanovich had volunteered by contributing their talent as had other members of the entertainment industry. “For an industry that has so many resources and so many ways of solving problems, this should be a calling to the industry,” Rich told Variety. “This is where we live. It’s where we prosper. It’s where we work. It is a moral and civic responsibility to our neighbors and to our community to confront this issue. It’s great to see that level of commitment and volunteerism in so many different forms.”
“Home Together” was presented by Key Sponsors RBC| City National Bank, and The Smidt Foundation.