Communities, Celebrities & Power Tools – All Brought Together By Habitat For Humanity

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Most people think of Los Angeles as the home to Hollywood, celebrities, and the city where dreams come true. While that may be the case for some, the grim reality is very different. Los Angeles is ranked as one of the least affordable housing areas in the U.S, and it remains second to New York as the region with the most homeless residents.

Los Angeles’ homeless population represents 9% of the national total and includes the most homeless veterans — more than 6,000 — in the country. Between 2011 and 2013 there was a 15% increase in the homeless population in Los Angeles according to statistics released in 2014.

City officials say they want to reevaluate their campaign against homelessness because the increase in numbers suggest something is not working. LA’s share of funding for homeless housing and services is not based on homeless numbers but on poverty and housing data.

Information from a 2014 US Census Bureau report shows that poverty is greater in Los Angeles County than the rest of the state of California or the US as a whole. They say 18% of individuals fall below the median poverty line.

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With this information in mind, is it enough to rely on governments to act in the best interests of citizens struggling with homelessness? Yes, we do expect them to act, and swiftly, but thankfully we can also cast our net a little wider to see the efforts being made by organizations and corporations.

For the 11th year running, Habitat For Humanity Los Angeles held its annual Power Women Power Tools event on June 6 which saw over 200 female leaders from the entertainment, education, faith and corporate sectors gather together with one cause in mind: to build up the community by literally picking up power tools and help build a home.

Habitat for Humanity‘s goal is to make more affordable housing for Los Angeles residents, and on June 6 the women who came to lend a hand helped build the frames for 3 different homes in Habitat LA’s future Hyde Park development in Inglewood, California.

This year’s sponsor was Lowe’s hardware store who provided all the equipment for the build.

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Celebrities that have attended this event include actress and director Angela Bassett, ‘The Walking Dead’ executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, ‘Parenthood’ actress Monica Potter, singer Kelly Rowland, and a number of local political representatives.

This year actress Camilla Belle (above) from ‘Jurassic Park: The Lost World’ and ‘10,000 BC’ was present, as was actress and singer Lisa Welchel (below), best known for her role on ‘The Facts of Life’ and appearing on reality television show ‘Survivor: Philippines’.

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“It is truly inspiring to have these women leaders joining our Board and staff members, as well as our partner families, to build walls and hope. It is also exciting for our organization to engage these women who have the potential to affect real change by educating their spheres of influence about our work,” said Erin Rank, Habitat LA’s President and CEO who added the Power Women Power Tools event is one of their most anticipated each year.

Employees from Local Lowes stores took part in the event dedicated to easing the burden on the housing crisis.

“We are committed to recruiting, educating and inspiring women to build decent and affordable homes with low-income families and being part of an event like this will truly leave a lasting impact on the greater LA community,” said Maureen Ausura, chairwoman of the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation.

This event’s ties with the celebrity community goes back to its inception. Eleven years ago ‘Braveheart’ writer, director and producer Randall Wallace came up with the idea and and partnered with Habitat for Humanity.

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It’s an initiative that is clearly needed in the heart of Los Angeles. HFH does point out on their website that they don’t offer handouts, rather a “hand up” by constructing new or renovating existing homes with the help of Habitat Partner Homebuyers. Aside from making monthly payments, homeowners are expected to give back to the program that helped them by assisting in the construction of other houses.

“Since 1990, we have built, rehabilitated and repaired more than 600 houses in neighborhoods all across greater Los Angeles. Shelter is a basic human need and Habitat for Humanity strives to achieve its goal of eliminating substandard housing by making decent, sustainable and affordable housing a reality for all,” states the website.

The rate of poverty and homelessness in Los Angeles won’t disappear overnight. Habitat for Humanity’s Power Women Power Tools event can only reach so far. But with the shocking reality that the percentage of disadvantaged people is growing, it’s important to give credit to initiatives like HFH’s which are using their resources and connection to held build viable futures in the community.

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(All photos courtesy of John D. Russell.)

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