Our guiding principles include:
- Community Building, trust and Relationship: Ongoing relationships are essential to our model of collaboration and advocacy. Community building is a primary goal of our work and informs all of the work we do.
- Mutuality and collaboration: Our Board and outreach program include people who are currently and formerly unhoused. Solutions to homelessness should be guided by lived experience. We look to uplift and listen to voices of people experiencing homelessness as we advocate for change and serve our community.
- Harm reduction and meeting people where they are: We want everyone to be housed, but believe getting there begins with meeting the needs of unhoused folks as they determine them and building the trust necessary to connect them to housing or other services/support. This means that while we work for permanent housing and decriminalization, we also work to make existing encampments safer, more hygienic, and better supported. It also means that sobriety or treatment should never be a barrier to accessing housing or services.
- Flexibility and mobility: Meeting people where they are has geographic implications. Unhoused people in the West Valley are spread out and services in central locations can be hard to access. The center of our work is outreach, and we aim to make our interventions as accessible to people across the West Valley as possible.
We organize the largest outreach in the San Fernando Valley, and served over 20,000 meals in the first year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and growing…
We were successful in our push for this housing development and continued to work in advocating for rights of our unhoused neighbors. Through this work we developed deep and continuing relationships with our unhoused neighbors. With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became apparent that our focus must turn toward outreach as well. Board member Kim Olsen began fielding calls from unhoused people desperate for food as usual sources such as food pantries or community meals became harder to access. From that beginning serving 40 people in Chatsworth, WVHY’s outreach has grown to a weekly program that serves sack lunches to 400-500 people in encampments across the West Valley. We are the biggest outreach in the San Fernando Valley, and have served over 25,000 meals.
From the basis of our outreach we have grown to provide other services, including hygiene kits, hot-weather survival supplies including deliveries of ice and frozen water and community coolers, harm reduction supplies, COVID-19 vaccination clinics, court support, working to help people make their cars street-legal, tax filing clinics to help people obtain stimulus payments, and more. More recently, we have been involved in advocating for unhoused people living in interim housing (Project Roomkey and Project Homekey). We advocate to keep people in housing, to change rules in interim housing that are forcing people back onto the streets as well as advocating for more appropriate housing to meet the needs of our formerly unhoused neighbors. We also operate a monthly mobile shower for people experiencing homelessness. It is from this work and consistent community building that we are able to truly advocate for housing solutions that will work for our unhoused neighbors.
Attorney Renay Grace Rodriguez, whose own experience of homelessness as a young woman drives her commitment to advocacy and pro bono services for the unhoused community.
Tom Booth, a licensed clinical social worker who works in community mental health services. Tom has his own story of lived experience in substance use recovery and personally understands the challenges and potential of those dealing with mental health issues.
Hannah Bowman, whose commitment to housing justice is informed by her prison abolitionist beliefs; she entered into housing activism through participation, with her family, in hosting unhoused youth through Safe Place for Youth’s Host Home Program.
Kim Olsen is an advocate for housing and food justice, born and raised in the West San Fernando Valley. She also runs the WVHY Outreach program, the largest in the San Fernando Valley.
- COVID-19 Vaccination: With LA County Dept. of Health Services, we run vaccine clinics in encampments. We also distributed a flyer in March 2021 with info on vaccine eligibility for unhoused folks that was used citywide.
- Mobile Shower: We run a truly mobile camping-style shower (currently monthly).
- Community Coolers and Hot Weather Supplies: We have community ice coolers in multiple encampments and take water to hundreds of people on hot days.
- Harm Reduction: We supply Narcan and harm reduction/overdose prevention supplies for drug users to encampments.
- Getting Cars Legal: We have helped get repairs for cars used as dwellings and get unpaid tickets addressed to prevent impounding of vehicles.
- Tax Filing for Stimulus Payments: With Kenneth Mejia, we helped unhoused folks file taxes to apply for stimulus payments.
- Sweep/Comprehensive Cleanup Response: Where possible, we advocate for the people we serve when their encampments are subject to sweeps and comprehensive cleanings. We observe such cleanings to be sure they are done in accordance with the law, and help unhoused folks move their belongings as necessary, to try to reduce the trauma of these sweeps. We also advocate for the rights of people living in encampments and against sweeps with council and county offices, as well as advocating for legislative change supporting the rights of unhoused people.
- Housing Assistance/Case Work: Through our outreach relationships with unhoused folks and collaborative relationships with service providers such as LA Family Housing, we assist people as they transition into Project Roomkey/Project Homekey and into housing. We do not have an official role in securing or transitioning into housing, but we advocate for the individuals we serve as necessary. We have successfully advocated for changes to rules within certain interim housing facilities and continue to advocate for additional changes to support the dignity and well-being of the residents there.