The 14th annual Success Breakfast sponsored by the Westside Shelter and Hunger Coalition (WSHC) drew a record crowd of nearly 500 at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel on Friday, September 25, as the Coalition celebrated the success of those it has helped, and as Coalition members listened to their inspiring stories.
Each year, WSHC honors previously homeless persons who have made extraordinary changes to leave behind a life of desperation and become housed, employed, productive, and self-confident. This year, the Coalition honored 30 individuals, five of whom shared their journeys with the attending representatives of government, business, social service agencies, and the faith community who make up the Coalition.
Anyone who thinks that all homeless aid programs simply mollycoddle shiftless vagrants who are either too lazy or too ornery to hold a job should have been there to hear the stories. The moving first-hand accounts demonstrate not only the real value of such programs but also the reason that the people who work in them do what they do.
Each of the 30 honorees had found homes, jobs, and new lives with the assistance of some of the more than 40 nonprofits, church groups, and public agencies that make up the Coalition. Also recognized with Community Support Awards were a dozen businesses and organizations that have worked with Coalition members.
John Maceri, executive director of OPCC who chairs the Coalition, presented the annual Community Partnership Award this year to the staff of the Santa Monica Homeless Community Court, which has now handled 156 cases of non-violent crimes and connected defendants with social services and housing in a program with a 69 percent successful completion rate. Judge Bobbi Tillman accepted the award for the court and praised the court’s “dedicated, professional” staff who “always showed compassion.”
The program was emceed by Fox/Channel 11 co-anchor and reporter Jean Martinez, who introduced previously homeless honorees from prior years, who in turn presented the 30 honorees with the recognition of their success.
In addition to the success stories that the Coalition honors at the breakfast, it also recognizes people, businesses, and other organizations that have worked with its members to provide community support for their programs. Honored this year were Brentwood School, California Pizza Kitchen, Dr. Tracy R. Childs, ETC Hotels, Jewish spiritual community IKAR, law firm Manatt Phelps & Phillips, Nemco Food Products, Team Obama Santa Monica, Dr. Matthew Torrington, Woodson & Rummerfield’s House of Design, and Women Helping Youth.
The choir from the New Directions program at the West L.A. Veterans Administration opened the program with “Lean on Me,” and Maceri rang the keynote for the morning in his welcoming message when he said, “We’re not talking about a faceless problem; we’re talking about real people – someone’s brother or sister, children or parents, and, increasingly today, grandmother or grandfather.”
WSHC is the oldest and largest such coalition in Los Angeles County, and has been providing service coordination, public education, and advocacy for its members for over 25 years.