Los Angeles Labor Begins ‘Team Homeless Heroes,’ Raises $10,000 for Homeless Veterans

Tonight when you go to sleep, will it be somewhere safe and secure? If you answered “yes” ask yourself one question, “Where are approximately 144,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. going to sleep tonight?”

Now I assume you will ask yourself the question, “Why are our veterans homeless?”

I agree this seems to be a fair question with probably long and complicated answers. But will pursuing any answer make any difference tonight, or tomorrow night, to those homeless veterans who have served on behalf of us all?

So the question really we have to ask ourselves is, “What can — and should — we be doing now?”

Each year United Way of Greater Los Angeles highlights the plight of around 50,000 plus people who are homeless by hosting a 5k walk. 'HomeWalk' raises awareness, funds and commitment to end this increasing disaster.

Here at the Los Angeles Federation of Labor AFL-CIO and Labor Community Services AFL-CIO United Way, the impact of the current economy has been seen sharply in our membership’s struggles to stay afloat. And with so many of our members being veterans, 'Team Homeless Heroes' was born this year, saluting all veterans and making a clear statement: “Being homeless in the U.S. is unacceptable, but being a veteran and homeless in the U.S. is a crime!”

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor members donated $10,000 and more than 250 walkers from dozens of L.A. unions came out, so the message was loudly heard on the morning of November 19, 2011.

'Homeless Heroes' in its inaugural year was the second largest team at Homewalk 2011, only just being beaten by Team Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant, as the honorary chair of the event, was game to try on his official LA Lakers fire helmet presented to him by Dave Gillotte, President of the L.A. County Fire Fighters Local 1014 and Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO.

And as they walked and ran, L.A Labor’s Team Homeless Heroes made sure that the plight of more than 9,000 homeless veterans in Los Angeles County was front and center. We insisted that the 31% of homeless veterans who are chronically homeless are not forgotten, and that the 51% increase in female veteran homelessness is shameful!

At the end of the walk there was a loud and clear message from our labor family, Homewalk 2011 was not a one-off event, and our veterans were not going to be made to wait until next year for us to remember them. This was just the beginning!

At the end of the day money was raised, awareness heightened and commitments honored.

As I and other Team Homeless Heroes members lay our head in safe and secure environments tonight, we know we are not waiting for the answer to the question “Why?” We are just doing what needs to be done today, and every day!