Hundreds will gather at LA City Hall on January 29th to recognize LA’s Impact-Makers to Watch. Among the 31 honorees will be eight leaders working to address the homeless crisis in their respective roles. This national crisis unfortunately finds LA as ground zero, and these leaders have innovated, sacrificed, and modeled what can be to address a seemingly unsolvable program.John Bwarie, CEO of Stratiscope and founder of the awards, notes, “Without community, you are nothing. These are the people proving that as an individual, you can captivate and activate others to create positive social change. In fact, you have to. Each in their own way are addressing this critical issue in our city.”
Elvina Beck, Founder, PodShare
Since 2012, Elvina has lived in and continues to hand-build more than 200 pod-style living units that promote a minimalist approach to living affordably in typically unaffordable cities. Her startup has been internationally recognized in publications like LA Times, CNN, Yahoo Finance, the Guardian, Vice, Buzzfeed, LA Business Journal (cover), DT News (cover), Huffington Post, and Business Insider. This year, PodShare for Social Good filed for 501c(3) status and a pilot program with the Downtown Women’s Center is underway to dedicate a 4-bed room to women who wish to live in community, subsidized by private sponsorship.
Tonja Boykin, Chief Operating Officer, Weingart Center
More than just a non-profit leader, Tonja is active in her Downtown LA community, and she always makes time to share her knowledge and experience with developing leaders. A project she is shepherding is the Weingart Towers, a multi-story affordable housing complex that will feature 382 units of permanent supportive housing along with more than 25,000 square feet of supportive services space, a ground-floor café for resident meals, and 2,250 feet of ground-level retail space. Rising 12 stories and 18 stories respectively above Skid Row, these two towers are a reimagination of what permanent supportive housing can look like.
Kelly Bruno, President and CEO, National Health Foundation
At the intersection of homelessness and healthcare, Kelly Bruno continues to improve upon the recuperative care model she began more than 11 years ago. Today, Kelly is creating innovative cross-sector partnerships with health plans and hospitals to ensure a secure funding stream for the 92 beds her organization is currently offering, with more than 75 hospitals and health plans contracting with NHF to provide a safe discharge option for their patients. NHF’s recuperative care program has delivered 15,788 days of service and $77.5 million in health care costs avoided.
Catherine Landers, Director for Special Projects, Office of Councilmember David Ryu
Catherine is an integral part of Councilmember David Ryu’s team, focusing on connecting people experiencing homelessness with a growing number of bridge housing units that she has advocated for. In 2020, Catherine will push forward in garnering support for bridge housing and working to protect tenants from unfounded evictions.
Kerry Morrison, Co-Founder, Heart Forward LA
After leaving a two-decade career as President and CEO of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, Kerry left her post to commit herself to addressing the mental illness crisis in America. Her work is fundamental to the TRIESTE pilot project, launching its planning phase in LA in 2020 to reimagine the way we care for those with mental illness, many of whom are living on the street.
Rick Nahmias, Founder & Executive Director, Food Forward
Rick founded Food Forward in 2009, which now collects surplus fruits and vegetables through three programs: Backyard Harvesting, Farmers Market Recovery, and Wholesale Produce Recovery. Collectively, these programs have recovered more than 85 million pounds of fresh produce. Under Rick’s leadership, Food Forward is now a model in the food recovery movement, annually providing free, nutritious fruits and vegetables to two million Southern Californians. 2020 will be a time to find a vision for a future, building off the successes of the last decade.
Brandi Orton, Managing Director, Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition (LAAAC)
Brandi’s work as the lead for the Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition’s (LAAAC) has put her at the forefront of issues facing older adults in Los Angeles. Using the power of convening, she is driving change and working to destigmatize aging. In 2020, she’ll continue to work to advocate for and raise awareness of older adults experiencing homelessness through her passion and professional commitment to some of LA’s most vulnerable.
Nathan Sheets, Executive Director, The Center of Hollywood
Under Nathan’s guidance since 2015, The Center of Hollywood has pivoted from a small four-person shop handling homeless outreach in the immediate Hollywood Community into a 20+ employee powerhouse that heads up services regionally for people experiencing homelessness. Nathan continues to lead and innovate, serving as a model for other organizations and bringing long-planned initiatives to fruition in 2020.
About Impact-Makers to Watch
The Impact-Makers to Watch Award is an annual distinction given to those who are doing foundational work to make a positive impact in Los Angeles and will continue to do so throughout the coming year. It is based on the work they have done in the past and the work they are projected to do. Honorees may have a career of impact that continues to show results or may be just starting out, with equally impressive results. Honorees are nominated at the end of the previous calendar year, and a panel of civic leaders helps make a selection of 30 individuals. The award was presented in 2016, and more than 100 leaders have been recognized with it since then.