Nathan Sheets, Executive Director of the Center in Hollywood, has been working to end homelessness in Hollywood for many years. This Passover week, with its focus on themes of family, history, social justice and community, seemed like a great time to invite Sheets to share an update on the Center, its work, and its upcoming Hike for Hollywood event.
When I give tours at The Center in Hollywood to highlight the significance of our work addressing homelessness, what often strikes people is the palpable sense of community.
To illustrate the importance of community and The Center’s key principle of fostering it, I often remark how many of us take our communit(ies) for granted. The Center’s participants, I often note, don’t have that privilege; to take for granted the family, friend, or other networks many of us are blessed to have. Increasingly, studies including one from the Mayo Clinic find that “when we feel we have support and are not alone, we are more resilient…social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor helping manage stress and other behavioral issues.”
Each day around 100 participants visit The Center. Some to check for mail (more than 500 people use 6636 Selma Ave. as their mailing address), others to attend groups ranging from drumming to mindfulness. Most people who find their way to The Center’s day services often come regularly, whether they’ve found housing, or not. The Center is a place where people are known; where the currency is conversation, over cups of coffee.
I started at The Center nearly 10 years ago; drawn to what I still talk about on tours: community, conversation, and the undeniable focus of the team to acknowledge those who’ve been unacknowledged in our world, and to provide safe space for the most marginalized people in our city. Since 2016 The Center has grown significantly, taking on housing-related programs, outreach, and in partnership with a local FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center); a satellite clinic where participants can access healthcare with a low-barrier approach.
Yet what animates The Center’s work is the focus on ending the debilitating isolation individuals who face houselessness witness daily. For some, it takes years of relentless engagement and radical hospitality for them to actively engage. And that is OK. The Center’s approach is not transactional and therefore is not tied to the general outcomes of the bourgeoning homeless services sector. Housing is just a milestone. And so are new relationships. One is essential for the retention of the other. Without safe spaces for relationship building, and sense of belonging housing is often yet another opportunity lost before the acquisition of something more important; dignity and relationship.
On April 29th The Center will host its 6th annual Hike to End Homelessness, starting at 9 a.m. in Griffith Park. The Hike helps to generate funds to support The Center’s daily efforts. Please join us by signing up here: https://thecenterinhollywood.org/
The Center is the expression of people knowing each other, and the simple opportunity I’ve been able to enjoy each day I’ve worked for the organization; an opportunity to be known, to be part of something significant, and in community with those often overlooked on our streets and sidewalks.
Nathan Sheets, (He/Him)
The Center I Community Ends Homelessness
6636 Selma Avenue Hollywood, CA 90028
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323.378.3225 – [email protected]
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