From Geek Exchange
By Doug Kline on April 19, 2013
More than 6000 children are homeless in Los Angeles county. Upward Bound House in Santa Monica and Culver City is working to wipe that statistic from the record books for good.
But Upward Bound House isn’t your average homeless shelter. You wouldn’t know that you were standing in front of it if you walked by it on the street. There are no signs outside the buildings where the families live that say “homeless shelter”. And that’s by design. The facilities are intentionally treated as a way station, not an endpoint in people’s lives.
With the help of partners and supporters like TCL, Upward Bound House in Santa Monica provides a stable environment in which families that have recently lost their homes can find a transitional space to get back on their feet again and find new ways to be self-sufficient. This past week, TCL (This Creative Life) stopped by to donate a number of their high end big screen HDTVs and computer monitors for use in the Upward Bound House facilities. And being that TCL is a partner in the launch of the upcoming Iron Man 3 film, they dropped off a stack of Iron Man toys and Blu-Rays for the kids to enjoy.
Executive director David Snow spoke to us about Upward Bound House’s goals and how TCL fits into the work they do:
“Our mission here is to eliminate homelessness among families with children in Los Angeles county. There are about 6000+ children on any given night. That’s the problem we’re addressing and we’re doing it really successfully. And we’re doing it successfully in large part because of partnerships we have with companies like TCL. Our friends at TCL have brought both toys and TVs. Where we’re standing now is our inter-generational center, where children in our program come in the evenings and have volunteer driven enrichment programming. Every so often we have a movie night and I can imagine in a couple weeks, we’ll have Iron Man up on our new screens. In a very meaningful way, partnerships like this provide a support network and an opportunity for children in our program who are homeless to feel like regular, normal kids. And that’s really important because they leave our program, go into their own homes, and get back into hopeful, stable, and self-sufficient lives. So I’m really thrilled everyone is here and for our partnership with TCL.”
We also got to spend some time talking with Yvonne Zima , who has a small role in the Iron Man 3 film, along with her sister Madeline , a regular volunteer at the shelters, about what Upward Bound House does for families and what it in turn has done for them.
Not only do they provide temporary apartment style housing for families, Upward Bound House customizes their approach to each family, with an effort to making their stay, however brief, comfortable and a little like home. For example, one of the apartments we visited included a bedding adorned with the child’s favorite NFL football team and a selection of toys and stuffed animals. The kitchen was appointed with everything they needed to cook their own meals (they can “shop” in the on-site pantry twice a week for donated food, clothes, and more), removing the need to take part in communal meals that would be found in other homeless shelters. And the best part is, once their stay is over, the family is able to take all of it with them: the bedding, the kitchenware, and more, giving them a head start in becoming self-sufficient beyond the walls of Upward Bound House.
With 18 units in Culver City and 21 in Santa Monica, families not only get an enviable zip code to rest their heads for up to a year, but they also get intensive case management that helps them get back on their feet. Most families are newly homeless and wouldn’t look any different than anyone else you’d see walking the aisles of the grocery store. Many are just those who have recently lost their jobs and, as a result, lost their homes and need to find a way to keep their children safe and fed. By the time their up to a year long stay is completed, they are given the means to make it on their own, with a budget, some money saved up, and a job. In the end, Upward Bound House isn’t about giving families a place to stay, but rather a place to rest and prepare for the next phase in their lives.
We asked TCL Director of Marketing Tom Heffernan what attracted the company to working with Upward Bound House:
“We’ve been looking for something to do in the community. And we’ve been talking to Yvonne about some opportunities around Iron Man 3, unrelated to this kind of thing. Her agent mentioned some charities she works with and after reading up on it, it sounded like a really great organization.
I think what’s amazing is the 95% success rate of transitioning people back into the community. So we came out to the facility and saw they had some small, old TVs and thought we could help them out [with brand new HD TVs] for entertaining kids.”
To learn more about Upward Bound House or to donate, visit their website at www.upwardboundhouse.org .