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Westwood Connect Day for people experiencing homelessness to be held in-person

Westwood Connect Day will be held in-person this September, organizers said, following last year’s cancellation because of COVID-19. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Maanas Oruganti and Justin Jung

July 31, 2021 5:14 p.m.

This post was updated Aug. 1 at 7:17 p.m.

Local officials are co-organizing an in-person outreach event at the Westwood Recreation Center for people experiencing homelessness.

Westwood Connect Day, which aims to provide resources and services for individuals experiencing homelessness, is planned for Sept. 28, organizers said.

[Related: Westwood Connect Day provisions homeless individuals, sponsored by NWWNC and WWNC]

The 2021 Westwood Connect Day will be the second time the NWWNC has been officially involved with the event. It was planned to be an annual event but was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers said.

Westwood Connect Day is being jointly organized by several local offices, including the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, the Westwood Neighborhood Council, LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office and LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office, said Andrew Lewis, the NWWNC vice president.

Volunteers from other organizations such as the LA Homeless Services Authority and St. Joseph Center will also be at the event to provide resources and services, said Lisa Chapman, the WWNC president.

The event’s goal is to help people experiencing homelessness access essential resources, including housing, clothing and hygiene kits, Chapman said.

“We have showers coming in with washer and dryer units, we have bathrooms there, we have all kinds of clothes, socks (and) underwear,” Chapman said.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles will also be at the event to help individuals acquire driver’s licenses and ID cards, Chapman also said. Assistance in accessing other government benefits such as social security, veteran’s benefits and pensions, as well as animal care services and pet food for pet owners, would also be provided, Chapman added.

The UCLA Mobile Clinic Project will also be at the outreach event to provide health care services, Lewis said.

The event’s planners are closely following updates on local COVID-19 protocols from the LA County Department of Public Health, Lewis said. The event will likely implement social distancing protocols and require all volunteers to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status, Lewis added.

Individuals experiencing homelessness face greater challenges in accessing resources such as the COVID-19 vaccine and social security cards, said Furkan Yalcin, the NWWNC president. The event’s cancellation last year prevented many from benefiting from resources, Yalcin added.

[Related: LA County sees worsening conditions for individuals experiencing homelessness]

Yalcin said he thinks one of the 2019 event’s greatest issues was lacking student turnout and that he hopes students will be more involved in the upcoming Westwood Connect Day.

The 2021 Westwood Connect Day was originally scheduled to be held in July but was postponed to encourage greater student participation, Lewis said. The event’s organizers are planning to reach out to student-led outreach groups, Lewis added.

Chapman said she thinks it is important for neighborhood councils to work together on addressing homelessness because of its prevalence in LA County.

She added that she hopes Westwood Connect Day will encourage volunteers from different areas to work together on homelessness issues in Westwood.

Recent developments in homelessness policies have made outreach efforts especially important, Lewis said, referencing Mayor Eric Garcetti’s approval of a city ordinance Thursday criminalizing homelessness.

“If the city is making it harder for those folks to basically live, to be outside and survive, then the question is starting to become, … ‘Who’s providing services, who’s actually helping these people out?’” Lewis said. “And that’s when days like Connect Day become ever more important.”

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Maanas Oruganti | News senior staff
Oruganti is a News senior staffer. He was also the 2020-2021 Enterprise editor and a News staff writer in the City & Crime and Science & Health beats 2020. He is also a fourth-year cognitive science student at UCLA.
Oruganti is a News senior staffer. He was also the 2020-2021 Enterprise editor and a News staff writer in the City & Crime and Science & Health beats 2020. He is also a fourth-year cognitive science student at UCLA.
Justin Jung | City and crime editor
Jung is the 2021-2022 assistant News editor for the city and crime beat and was previously the assistant Enterprise editor. He is also a photographer and Copy contributor for the Daily Bruin. Jung is a third-year global studies and geography student.
Jung is the 2021-2022 assistant News editor for the city and crime beat and was previously the assistant Enterprise editor. He is also a photographer and Copy contributor for the Daily Bruin. Jung is a third-year global studies and geography student.
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