HOLLYWOOD, Calif., May 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- While major U.S. cities struggle to solve their growing homeless problems, a small nonprofit in Hollywood has been quietly helping down-on-their-luck men and women off the streets and into an apartment and a full-time job for the last 23 years.
Last month, Food on Foot reached a milestone of feeding 150 - 180 homeless people each Sunday for 1200 consecutive Sundays in the parking lot of Hollywood's LGBT Center. In 2018, Food on Foot helped 45 homeless people move into their own apartment and find full-time employment. Over the years, it claims participants have had an 85 percent success rate in keeping their job and their home.
The weekly food servings and assistance in getting the homeless a paycheck and a place to live is "not a handout but a hand-up," says executive director Jay Goldinger, a former financial executive who launched Food on Foot in March, 1996. "Our goal is to help people rebuild their self-esteem and their lives. We've found this will help them stay off the streets when life gets tough and, let's face it, life is tough."
Goldinger says, "Everyday people become homeless after some unexpected and overwhelming situation that's often beyond their control. They lose their job, become sick, medical bills pile up, a close loved one dies or leaves and they turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. They spiral down and lose their home. It's crushing.
"Those people who are committed to turning their lives around know they have to work for it," he said. "We give them that opportunity but they have to trust us first."
The key to Food on Foot's 85 percent success rate is its 'Trust First' approach. The homeless person is helped to recreate his or her internal sense of trust and confidence – a mindset of self-belief – which disappears when basic shelter is lost and survival on the streets is uppermost. The person also has to regain external trust of organizations that want to help.
Goldinger's research and experience over 23 years has found that a lack of resources, skills, and ultimately trust and confidence are what prevent homeless people from re-entering the workforce and maintaining permanent housing. This can lead to substance abuse relapses, mental illness and eventually chronic homelessness.
FOUR WAYS FOOD ON FOOT INSTILLS TRUST WITHIN THE HOMELESS:
Instantly Delivering Basic Human Needs: Food & Clothing.
One way homeless people find out about Food on Foot's job and housing opportunities is through its weekly Sunday servings where full chicken dinners, snacks and donated clothing are served to 150 to 180 homeless and low-income people in Hollywood, rain or shine. "Consistency breeds trust and trust breeds confidence," explains Goldinger. "We're here delivering the exact same meal at the exact same time every single Sunday.
"It doesn't matter if it's the Oscars, Super Bowl Sunday, or even Christmas…we're here for them. The promise of housing in the far-off future seems untrustworthy if their basic needs like food and clothing aren't met immediately."
Building Confidence Through Resources, Life-Skills, Jobs and Housing.
The nonprofit delivers more than a meal. While in the food line, homeless people learn how they can leave the streets through Food on Foot's "Work for Food" program. Graduates earn their way off the streets with a full-time job, their own fully-furnished apartment, a life-skills education, and a $5,000 savings account (their paycheck earnings while in the program).
Food on Foot's Program Directors, Dr. Kelsie Deppen and Precious Boone, meet with the homeless participants in group sessions and one-on-one settings. "We work with the high-functioning homeless who slip through the cracks of other homeless programs," explains Dr. Deppen, "These are adults who are not on disability, probation or parole. We help these people get back to work quickly before they slip into chronic homelessness."
The "Work for Food" program participants attend weekly personal growth workshops that cover job interview skills training, money management, crisis management, resume building, and substance abuse counseling.
Program participants choose the basic items and resources they earn such as bedding and kitchen amenities when moving into their apartment. Says Program Director Boone: "A sense of trust is formed when you have the opportunity to make choices about your life."
Homeless Give Back to the Community
Food on Foot's "Work for Food" participants team up in groups and give back to the community by cleaning Hollywood's streets and parking lots in exchange for food and retail gift cards. "This work is a strong team building activity that also creates a solid sense of community and comradery," contends Goldinger.
Former Homeless Mentor Newcomers
Once a participant is halfway through the program, he or she receives a full-time job and their own apartment. At this point, they mentor and advise the incoming homeless participants who are new to the program. These interactions give social proof, and ultimately hope that sticking with the Food on Foot program will yield positive results including full-time jobs and housing. Many graduates return on Sundays and continue their role as mentors and role models.
HOMELESS TO HIRED: RODERICK'S STORY:
Roderick Norseweather, 46, of Los Angeles said his life changed when his mom was diagnosed with cancer, died, and he was forced to sell the family home. "Hard times hit and my life was going downhill," he said. "I soon found myself homeless and living underneath an abandoned truck in Hollywood."
Norseweather saw a Food on Foot flyer, started attending the Sunday food servings and soon entered the "Work for Food" program where he joined a work crew cleaning parking lots. "After four months, they placed me in a job at Pali House, a restaurant in West Hollywood and I got an apartment. For me, it was like a homeless door closed and a working door opened."
Since its formation, the nonprofit has "never taken a dime" in government support or taxpayer money, said its founder. It is entirely self-funded by private citizens, corporations and foundations.
So far, the program has found full-time jobs and housing for over 400 formerly homeless people including 45 in 2018, and 16 this year alone. "Not a huge number," Goldinger concedes, "and it won't solve Los Angeles' growing homeless program. But we're making progress rebuilding one life at a time and that's huge."
Food on Foot participants in the "Work for Food" program
Graduates from the "Work for Food" program earn their way off the streets with a full-time job, a fully-furnished apartment, a life-skills education, and a $5,000 savings account (their employment earnings while in the program).
SOURCE Food on Foot