Westwood Connect Day provides services to individuals experiencing homelessness
Dozens of individuals experiencing homelessness received services at Westwood Connect Day on Tuesday. Co-hosted by local officials and service providers throughout Los Angeles, the event offered legal, medical, housing and hygiene services. (Justin Jung/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Justin Jung
Sept. 28, 2021 1:50 p.m.
This post was updated Sept. 30 at 3:40 p.m.
Local officials held an in-person outreach and service event for people experiencing homelessness at the Westwood Recreation Center on Tuesday.
Westwood Connect Day – which provides legal, medical, housing and hygiene services for community members – was co-organized by multiple local offices and service organizations.
Local official organizers included the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, Westwood Neighborhood Council, Westside Neighborhood Council, Los Angeles City Council District 5 Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office, California State Sen. Sydney Kamlager’s office, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office and LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
Other community organizations co-hosting and providing services at the event included West LA Homeless, Westwood Village Rotary, the Westwood Village Improvement Association, LA Homeless Services Authority and St. Joseph Center.
UCLA organizations – including the UCLA Mobile Eye Clinic, Student Run Homeless Clinic and Mobile Clinic Project at UCLA – also provided health care services such as glaucoma and diabetes screenings at the event.
The 2021 Westwood Connect Day was the first time the annual event was held in person since it was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Connect days are an efficient way for service providers to connect individuals experiencing homelessness with assistance, especially as some individuals may not have a car or a bus pass to go to multiple locations, said Zachary Gaidzik, the Westside field deputy for Kuehl’s office.
By bringing the services directly to individuals, Westwood Connect Day helps them access health care, acquire ID cards and work with the city public defender’s office on criminal record clearing, Gaidzik said.
WeHOPE, a homelessness service organization based in the Bay Area, brought a Dignity on Wheels trailer with an onboard bathroom, shower and laundry to the connect day.
Hygiene services help individuals feel better and prepared for their day, said Paul Asplund, Dignity on Wheels’ director of LA operations. A hot shower and clean bathroom are privileges many take for granted and may not always be available to people experiencing homelessness, Asplund added.
The event also provided free haircuts to community members through ProjectQ Salon and Community Center and Peroxide Beauty and Barbershop.
A fresh haircut helps individuals feel confident in their everyday lives, said ProjectQ volunteer Jessica-Jean de la Vega.
As the city continues to work on solutions for homelessness, events like Westwood Connect Day are crucial for helping community members, said Naomi Riley, a district representative for Kamlager’s office.
“We have one of the highest homeless populations, … and there’s so much money that’s going to helping them, but there’s still so many people that need to be helped,” said Riley, a UCLA alumnus and former Undergraduate Students Association Council president. “While there need to be larger measures that are taken, these events are really important for the needs that are immediate.”