In 2009 when the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce partnered with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles to end chronic and veteran homelessness in L.A. County, most people either ignored the announcement or thought we were crazy. Los Angeles was the homeless capital of the United States and it would always be that way.

Our new partnership studied the homeless problem in L.A. County by talking to service providers, elected officials, law enforcement professionals and the homeless themselves. We traveled to other cities and states and visited with community leaders who had used a variety of different approaches to address their homeless problems. In 2011, we developed a plan called “Home for Good” that focused on the goal of creating permanently supportive housing for the most chronic of our homeless population and for the veterans of past and current wars who were struggling with homelessness.  

With the help of existing providers of services for the homeless, foundations, businesses and local, state and federal officials, we embarked on a plan to not simply manage homelessness, but to end homelessness. We showed funders how permanent supportive housing would save public money for those in the direst need of housing if we wrapped that housing with health care services, mental health services and counseling for drug addiction and job opportunities.

Flash forward to last week, when the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama stood at the microphone and said “Here in L.A., the United Way and Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce have brought public and private partners together for an incredible program called Home for Good — and together, you have housed more than 9,000 veterans since 2011.”

The Great Recession added thousands of new homeless to our ranks and we are still a long way from the goal line, but our progress has been significant. To date, Home for Good has housed more than 14,000 homeless (including 9,000 veterans). The partnership between the United Way and the Chamber has brought together more than $360 million in public and private funds to make permanent supportive housing available. Before Home for Good weighed in and piloted its Coordinated Entry System, it took an average of 100 days for a homeless person, who had decided they were ready to seek permanent shelter, to reach that goal. Today, the Coordinated Entry System has reduced the time dramatically, in some cases down to nine days.

They said we were crazy, but the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness under the leadership of Jerry Neuman, Renee Fraser and Chris Carey and the support of 16 other members was — and is — determined to succeed. Thank you to everyone who decided to join us on this crazy journey. There is still room on the train. Together we will change Los Angeles County — one homeless person or veteran at a time.