Twelve thousand people lined up near Exposition Park preparing for Kobe Bryant to give the countdown to start the 5k walk/run raising funds for United Way. Home Walk invites people from Los Angeles to walk together and raise funding to end homelessness in this city. While I’m skeptical that homelessness will end anytime soon (and so was the gentleman that I was walking with, who isn’t currently housed), the hearts of many participating in the 3+ mile walk are in the right place.
The sponsors of Home Walk also made an effort to spread awareness regarding the issue of homelessness by placing large signs throughout the walk encouraging participants to share them via twitter/Facebook/instagram. While most were true to the issue, some made me cringe as I walked by with several participants that are currently staying on the streets. One particular sign read “imagine if this was your best option for a bed” and was accompanied by several high -end sleeping bags on the pavement. While it’s true that many of the participants I see coming through the door at the Center do have sleeping bags, many don’t have much more than a thin, dirty blanket or a piece of cardboard. Most are not afforded the luxury of high-end camping gear that was displayed here, and I even heard one of our regulars comment that he would like to have a sleeping bag that nice! On the opposite end, several of the people that stop by do have housing, temporary hotel arrangements, or shelter housing (often accompanied by bed bugs).
I have a difficult time wrestling with fundraising and philanthropies such as Home Walk. Such events are raising valuable funds for trying to eradicate homelessness and other travesties in our world, but I can’t help but see all of the resources that are used to put on such events. It’s obviously more fun to participate in a fun event that has a great cause and to get a free t-shirt in the process, but is that the best use of our time and resources? I honestly believe that without the event and special guest, Kobe Bryant, the event wouldn’t have raised nearly as much.
Despite my criticism, I am very grateful for the thousands of people in this city that care not only about this issue but also about the individuals that are affected by homelessness. I am also encouraged daily by the compassion that God has placed in each of my coworkers and volunteers at the Center and other organizations in Hollywood and across Los Angeles. And I’m grateful for each of you supporting me in this learning experience in Hollywood.