On Tuesday, August 29, Pan Pacific Recreation Center was a hive of activity as more than 30 city agencies, non-profit groups, and other organizations gathered for the Midtown Connect day, which provides services, resources and information for people experiencing homeless.
This year’s event was organized and supported by the offices of LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, City Council Members David Ryu and Paul Koretz, Assembly Member Richard Bloom, and State Senator Ben Allen. Other key agencies included the Mid City West Neighborhood Council, Midtown Los Angeles Homeless Coalition, Saban Community Clinics, The Center at Blessed Sacrament, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), The People Concern, and more.
The day’s roster included on-the-spot meals (breakfast and lunch), showers, clothing and accessories, haircuts, dental and eye exams, vaccinations, HIV testing and more…as well as information on and connection to services for mental health issues, legal issues, housing, shelters, Safe Parking, substance use and addiction, birth certificates, identification and DMV registration, voter registration, LGBT resources, library resources, Metro passes, cell phones, education, workforce development, aging and more.
According to volunteer staff at the check-in table, about 150 people attended Midtown Connect, with about 60% coming from the immediate community, and the remaining 40% from the larger mid-Los Angeles area…though some came even further.
Two of those who made a much longer trek to attend were Monisha Parker and Lillian Garcia, who both currently live in a shelter in North Hollywood. Parker said she got an eye exam and glasses at the event, as well as much-needed connections toward getting a voucher for permanent housing, which she’ll need as she works toward her goal of going back to school. Meanwhile, a jubilant Garcia said she got information on services for her husband, who is dealing with addiction issues, and – even more importantly – received confirmation at the event that her long-awaited housing voucher will come through in early September.
Volunteer Eileen Wiener told the Buzz that the day was especially great for people who don’t have their own transportation (like Parker and Garcia, who rode Metro from North Hollywood) because it collected so many services in one place, for “all the difficult challenges homeless people face.”
Tammy Rosato, the homeless liaison for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council and a board member of the Midtown Homeless Coalition, also helped with the event, and said it was “great for people experiencing homelessness to connect, great for providers to connect, and great for volunteers to connect,” too. In fact, said Rosato later, “I was moved many times, but when I saw a young man leave the showers and proudly put on an Oakley red athletic shirt my husband donated, I really had to fight back the tears. I told him “red is your color, you look great” — he grinned from ear to ear and said “thank you.””
Rosato also said, “Everyone I spoke with was deeply thankful for the volunteers, hygiene kits, clothing and blanket donations. I wish more people would look these people in the eye and have a conversation, or at the very least say “good morning” or “have a nice day.” Everyone deserves this simple kindness, and the world would be a better place.”
But no one was happier than those who found what they really needed at Midtown Connect. Garcia said she was “very grateful,” and that PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) has been particularly helpful in assisting her with the coming housing voucher. Meanwhile, Parker said she’s been to several similar events in the past, but this one was “much better,” with more resources and better organization. “It is such a blessing for our community,” she said with a smile. “I got my satisfaction.”