Combatting Homelessness with Hollywood 4WRD
Brittney Weissman, executive director of Hollywood 4WRD, knows all too well about the tragedy of homelessness in Hollywood. For the unhoused and in need of help, the glamour of film openings and hip new restaurants might as well be a universe away instead of just around the corner from a sidewalk or doorway in which they may sleep.
But Weissman is doing everything she can to lead this impressive organization to combat homelessness and replace street encampments and suffering with hope and new directions.
The organization is proceeding with many varied plans for the future while presently focusing on a community engagement platform for the Department of Mental Health related to its “Hollywood 2.0” innovations pilot. The organization is also working to share the fast-breaking news and developments about housing, services, and homelessness affecting the greater Hollywood area, she relates.
Well-qualified steering committee members are busy working to identify and handle all the aspects of homelessness in order to accomplish this. “Hollywood 4WRD is a coalition driven to create systemic change to effectively address homelessness in Hollywood through advocacy, education, service coordination, and innovation," Weissman said. "In 2008, representatives of the Hollywood business community, in conjunction with local government officials, service providers, neighborhood representatives, and the faith community began meeting monthly to discuss a shared commitment to ending homelessness.”
That was the beginning. Today, according to Weissman, “Over time, the coalition has tackled pressing issues as the situation continues to deteriorate. The challenges are plentiful, but the passion to continue to fight for real change is stronger than ever.”
A wide range of innovative solutions are being considered for implementation in Hollywood. “Over the course of the pandemic, Hollywood 4WRD membership has met on these topics: food insecurity in Hollywood, freeway encampment strategy, sanitation working group, Cal-Trans sanitation advocacy, Recreation and Parks emergency shelter activation, and a consolidated entry system work group,” Weissman said.
Weissman added that "there is a $116 million dollar investment on its way to Hollywood through the LA County Department of Mental Health for a program called Hollywood 2.0. Hollywood 4WRD is the lead community group for Hollywood 2.0 community engagement. We’ll ensure that important stakeholders are at the table to discuss the program and implementation, including LAPD, LAHSA, elected officials, business owners, landlords, etc.”
With that kind of advocacy, Hollywood 2.0 plans to deploy an array of services to serve the population within the region, making modifications to optimize funds to do so. Hollywood has been chosen to implement this regional program within its boundaries due in part to its concentration of people who are seriously mentally unwell and experiencing homeless
The 2.0 project overall includes a mental health system that takes a holistic, human and hospitality-oriented approach to care, providing this vulnerable population with engagement and treatment access. The idea is to do so by expanding a Full-Service Partnership redesign, a homeless outreach mobile engagement pilot, a peer resource center with a clubhouse-type of programming and by implementing Alternative Crisis Response initiatives.
Weissman also asserts, “We are all looking at all the various outreach and engagement efforts occurring within greater Hollywood to identify who’s doing what, where and for whom and with which resources. So far as we can tell, no one firm or entity has an eagle-eye view of that and we’re sure there are gaps and overlaps that, once identified, we can address to increase efficiency for the system and improved outcomes for people on the street.”
The organization’s name itself is hopeful toward a more inclusive and healthy future for Hollywood and the homeless. “The name for Hollywood 4WRD is extremely thoughtful when you take a second look and realize that our 4WRD means progress and future, but also a home: 4 Walls, a Roof and a Door!”
The group has been entirely all-volunteer until they hired Weissman as their first executive director in June; her hiring should help galvanize and lead the group on what is undoubtedly a challenging road ahead.
“In 2020, LAHSA canceled the annual point in time homeless count, but Hollywood 4WRD organized it’s very own grassroots effort to deliver results. On February 25th, 2021, members of Hollywood 4WRD collectively mobilized to count all unsheltered people in Hollywood and East Hollywood. We counted 1513 unsheltered people compared to 1714 in 2020–a 12% drop. This may mean that interventions like eviction moratoria, Project Roomkey, new A Bridge Home shelters, and more permanent supportive housing successfully got and kept people off the street,” Weissman said. “Since the full impact of COVID is yet to be seen, we must build on all successful solutions to ensure everyone has a safe and healthy home as soon as possible.”