This weekend, more than 5,000 people will walk to end homelessness in the Adams, Exposition Park neighborhoods of South Los Angeles.
The yearly HomeWalk by United Way of Greater Los Angeles will kick off at 9 o’clock Saturday morning. Participants will walk or run a 5k around the streets of Los Angeles to raise funds for United Way’s efforts to place the city’s homeless in homes.
“We are the homeless capital of the nation,” said United Way's Taulene Kagan, one of the walk’s organizers. “The fact that we have individuals — men, women and children — sleeping on the streets is just unacceptable.”
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority there are more than 23,000 people living homeless in the city of Los Angeles, with more than 50,000 in Los Angeles County. Nearly 13,000 of those are school-aged children.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant will be attending this year’s opening ceremonies. The basketball player’s charity, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation works to end youth homelessness and has also donated $5,000 to HomeWalk.
Participants can sign up to walk as members of Team Kobe on Saturday.
Kagan said that United Way hopes that even more people will come out to support the fight against homelessness now that the current economy has forced the issue into public consciousness.
“There used to be a really negative perception on homelessness,” she said. “But now, with the economy people have changed that perception. The number one cause of homelessness is the loss of a job and so many more people are experiencing that now.”
All proceeds from the event go to supporting efforts to end homelessness. United Way gives the money raised to nonprofits that supply permanent housing to people fighting chronic homelessness, to veterans and to families.
“There is an 85 percent success rate among permanent housing programs,” Kagan said. “It’s also smart economically because it stops homeless people from cycling through jails and hospitals and using taxpayer dollars.”
Since its inception five years ago, the walk has raised $2.2 million and moved 12,000 people into permanent housing.
The walk starts at Exposition Park, just south of the University of Southern California, and will head north on Figueroa Boulevard to West Adams Boulevard. It will head back down Hoover Street and finish with a loop around the Park.
Street closures include Figueroa Boulevard, the Exposition off-ramp of the 110 Freeway, West Adams Boulevard, and Jefferson and Exposition boulevards starting at 8 a.m.
Online registration at www.unitedwayla.org/homewalk runs until Nov. 14. But walkers and runners can register on race day.