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Walk raises funds for homeless programs

LOS ANGELES — Nearly 12,000 people participated in the ninth annual HomeWalk in Exposition Park Nov. 21, raising $1.1 million to help end homelessness in Los Angeles County, organizers said.

The walk is organized by United Way of Greater Los Angeles as part of its efforts to “create pathways out of poverty.”

“While we have made great strides and built strong partnerships across all sectors, homelessness will continue to be our focus until no one has to live without a home,” said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

“By mobilizing thousands of Angelenos, we are raising the awareness and funds necessary to create pathways out of poverty and move our most vulnerable neighbors into permanent housing.”

The top individual fundraiser was Dennis Arriola, president and CEO of Southern California Gas Co., who raised more than $52,000. Southern California Gas Co. was the top team fundraiser, raising $100,000, Buik said.

Sergio Jimenez was among the Southern California Gas Co. employees walking and running on a 5-kilometer path through Exposition Park.

Jimenez, a retired Marine Corps veteran, created “Team Semper Fi-SoCalGas” to rally support from his friends and family for the walk after seeing the homeless problem every day on his commute to work.

The team consisted of Marine Corps veterans who fought in the Persian Gulf War, Iraq War, Afghanistan War, their family members “and average Americans who believe it is unacceptable for even one veteran to be homeless in Los Angeles and in any city in the most prosperous and generous country on Earth,” Jimenez said.

For every $5,000 a person or team raised, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation matched it with another $5,000, Buik said.

“Homelessness is a solvable problem with very tangible solutions,” said Steven M. Hilton, the chairman, president and CEO of the foundation created in 1944 by his grandfather, Conrad N. Hilton, the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain.

“We need to invest in housing and supportive services through a coordinated platform, with the support of a broad based coalition of volunteers, philanthropy, nonprofits, business, and government.”

The United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ anti-poverty projects includes “Home For Good” which began in December 2010 in partnership with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce with the initial goals of ending chronic and veterans homelessness in Los Angeles County by 2016.

“Home For Good” focuses on moving individuals into permanent housing with support services. It has provided housing for 24,168 previously homeless individuals — 14,863 veterans and 9,305 chronically homeless people — since 2011, Buik said.

The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, presented by first lady Michelle Obama in June 2014 and accepted by Mayor Eric Garcetti, moved up the date to end homelessness among veterans to the end of 2015.

Another 2,693 veterans may still need housing by the end of 2015 and another 21,596 chronically homeless people may still need housing by 2016, according to Buik.

The walk comes two days after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its 2015 annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

The one-night estimate of homelessness found that the Los Angeles Continuum of Care had the nation’s second- largest amount of homeless people, 41,174, and the second-largest percentage of unsheltered homeless people, 70.3 percent, among major cities continuums of care.

The estimate found there were 6,781 more homeless people in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care in 2015 than in 2014, a 20 percent increase.

The New York City Continuum of Care had the largest number of homeless people, 75,323, while the San Jose/Santa Clara City and County Continuum of Care had the largest percentage of unsheltered homeless people, 70.6 percent, among major cities continuums of care.

The rate of unsheltered homeless people in the New York City Continuum of Care was 4.2 percent, the fifth lowest among major cities continuums of care. The Boston Continuum of Care had the lowest rate, 2.1 percent.

A continuum of care is the local planning body responsible for coordinating the full range of homelessness services in a geographic area. The Los Angeles Continuum of Care consists of all of Los Angeles County except for Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach.