Open Collective
Open Collective
What's Update: A 2022 Into 2023 Reflection – Happy New Year!
Published on December 21, 2022 by Lisa Redmond

It’s only natural that as 2022 comes to a close, we're filled with the excitement that most seem to feel at this time of year. Human nature holds enthusiasm for a brand new year, a new start to what the future has in store, and we are all in on that! We’re daydreaming about the 12 new months ahead, full of strong intentions to make 2023 better than ever with new goals and targets to hit. Yet before we think about what’s next for us, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2022.   

We started 2022 with a brand new home for our monthly Resource Center. The good people at St. Bede’s Epicopal Church in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles welcomed us with open arms. Their location was larger and allowed us to expand our operations even further. Even more, their centralized location was ideal for our volunteer drivers who transport our guests from encampments throughout the Westside. 

2022 was a big year of growth for us. We expanded our volunteer base considerably. So much so that at our most recent event, we had one volunteer for every guest. Our volunteers are terrific and go far to extend a welcoming hospitality for all our guests in attendance. And we continued to see and meet new guest attendees every month.  We were also able to take advantage of our new location’s kitchen to start making and serving hot meals. The meals are an enjoyable treat for all. Not only for our guests, but also an opportunity for our service providers and volunteers to be nourished as well. We also marked our one-year anniversary at our August Resource Center with a celebratory cookout of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, and of course birthday cake!

Additionally, in 2022 we grew by welcoming new regular service providers attending the Resource Center. This included a street medicine team from the UCLA Homeless Healthcare Collaborative; harm reduction from Clare | Matrix; a volunteer who became certified to provide fee waiver vouchers for the DMV, as well as the DMV setting up a mini-service center to take pictures and create IDs; a legal team from Bet Tzedek Legal Services; job resources through Chrysalis; Safe Parking LA; social support through Miracle Messages; Bikerowave bicycle repair; and vital records through the LA County Registrar. We also welcomed Dignity on Wheels as a new shower provider after they expanded operations to Los Angeles from their Northern California base. Their shower truck also came with a laundry operation, allowing our guests to experience freshly cleaned clothing. These new service providers provided the kind of services our guests request and want, and were a beneficial addition to our initial service providers of CalFresh signups by Hunger Action LA; hygiene kits from Housing MV; Caseworkers from LAHSA and St. Joseph Center; and phones from Assurance Wireless.

We are filled with gratitude for the many donations we received this year. While our volunteer led Resource Center does not have a huge budget or require hefty expenses, there are small operational costs. Every month we have to pay for a street parking permit for the shower truck to park upfront and close. We also have food and paper good expenses for our homemade meals, a few office supplies here and there, liability insurance, gas money for transporting guests, and online subscription software to make our organization easier. Additionally, funds were spent on needed supplies for our guests such as tents, sleeping bags, tarps, feminine hygiene products, and medicine, to name a few. We also purchase underwear to round out our clothing giveaway table. Our expansive growth this past year also saw us purchasing operational items necessary to run our monthly event, like additional tables, canopies and trash containers.

As wonderful as this past year was for us, 2022 was not without challenges, two in particular. Our first occurred at the start of the year when we made the difficult decision to cancel our January event due to the considerable COVID-19 surge. Yet we are a nimble group and we made a quick pivot to divide and conquer. We gathered our volunteers together who could, divided up supplies into small groups who then visited encampments personally. While our guests were sad to not come together at our usual event, they very much enjoyed the personal visits and supplies brought to them. We were reminded that it's not so much the event that our guests rely on, but the human connection we provide with care. Hospitality and kindness can be offered anywhere.

We’re also ending the year with a huge double challenge. The shower and laundry truck we employed has relocated back to Northern California. Surprisingly for a city our size, there are so few operational shower trucks in Los Angeles, let alone a truck that also provided laundry services. We sadly had no shower truck for our December event. Showers are a feature so many of our guests rely on. In conjunction, our like minded City Councilmember did not seek reelection and is no longer in office. He happily used his discretionary funds to pay for the porta potties, handwashing stations and the shower truck rentals every month, approximately $1,500. So not only are we now scrambling to find a shower truck for January, we are looking at a huge monthly expense we haven't had to previously worry about. While we’re still amid this double challenge, we know we all have multiple connections and we are calling on as many as possible for a happy resolution. We are optimistic, and we know somehow somewhere we can find a shower truck and funding. 

Beyond the immediate challenge of finding a new shower truck provider and hopefully a funding partner to pay for the shower truck, porta potties and handwashing stations, we are excited for 2023! We’re confident we can expand further on what we did well this year with more volunteers, arranging for even more services that will benefit our guests, and reaching more guests to attend. The latter will be accomplished by our plans to expand outreach during the month to in person encampment visits. We’re also looking at initiating a fundraising team to have more funds for necessary supplies in constant need like tents and tarps. And we want to continue our advocacy work for housing justice. We also plan to expand our organizing core team which will greatly assist us in attaining our goals.

We know every experience, and every moment we face is a lesson to grow from, and we look forward to more lessons to become better at what we do with mutual aid for our unhoused neighbors. We wish everyone a very happy holiday season, and wish all the same excitement and anticipation that comes with the new year!