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Los Angeles turns to faith leaders to help with homelessness crisis

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Religious leaders promised to encourage their congregations to offer showers, laundry, housing and compassion.

With the number of homelessness rising to record levels in Los Angeles, the city’s mayor is turning to local religious leaders to help stem the crisis.  

Last month Mayor Eric Garcetti invited 100 faith leaders from across Los Angeles to launch the “Days of Compassion” program, to help and encourage members of their communities to “put their faith into action by lifting up the most vulnerable, and pulling people together around the idea that everyone deserves to live in safety and with dignity.”

The plan comes months after a report was issued that showed that the homeless population had increased by a staggering 23 percent, to nearly 58,000, in Los Angeles County over the last year.

Tent cities spread across Los Angeles area

No longer confined to Skid Row, the homelessness problem is evident in the tent cities cropping up across the city and its surrounding areas. Tourists visiting Los Angeles “are shocked to find themselves stepping over people draped in filthy blankets and begging on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Shop owners routinely swill the pavements to wash away urine and the accompanying stench,” reported the BBC.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the sharp increase came despite intensified efforts to end homelessness, such as rent subsidies, new construction, and outreach and support services, which, got 14,000 people off the streets last year. Homelessness within the city limits of Los Angeles increased by 20 percent, to 34,189, in that time.

Faithful encouraged to become “Hospitality Hubs”

Having signed a pledge to to “open our doors without fear, our resources without restraint, our minds without reservation, and our hearts without judgment,” religious leaders joined the mayor in a promise to lead their congregations in efforts to support the homeless.

To help faith leaders in their efforts to organize volunteers, the city set up a “Days of Compassion” website. Contact information is provided so Angelenos can sign up to become “Hospitality Hubs,” host mobile showers in their businesses’ parking lots, serve meals, and allow access to restrooms and help with laundry.

Other ways to help, include offering storage space for those who are looking for housing and employment, providing mailboxes, blankets, and offering recreational classes and case management services.

Have a vacant lot you might donate?

For those with the resources to help provide housing, whether by donating land, the housing, or architectural services, the website’s “Housing Resource Matchmaker” will help get those who want to help get started.

Invite the formerly homeless to speak to your congregation

And finally, the city has offered speakers to come into houses of worship and address their congregations. Formerly homeless Angelenos are available to speak on the problem of homelessness and ways in which people can help.

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