HOUSINGMV: Mar Vista Task Force on Homelessness was formed in 2021 as an independent group of community volunteers committed to compassionately addressing serious issues associated with homelessness in Mar Vista. PHOTO Courtesy of HOUSINGMV

HOUSINGMV helps the unhoused while improving community health and safety

By Nicole Borgenicht

In December 2020, Rich Hirschkoff founded HOUSINGMV: Mar Vista Task Force on Homelessness, a nonprofit organization (pending status) that is dedicated to helping the homeless in Mar Vista by providing services and housing support while increasing community health and safety.

“I was tired of the grief, anger and resentment being expressed about the homeless without solutions,” Hirschkoff said. “Getting angry doesn’t solve the problem. I figured getting out and doing something about it might help lead to solutions. That led me to look to colleagues and friends to form HOUSINGMV.”

HOUSINGMV treasurer and CFO Robin Doyno has also formed two other nonprofits, Gratitude Retreat Foundation (a 12-step men’s recovery home) and West Mar Vista Neighborhood Association. Board secretary/digital media director Deb Longua-Zamero is one of the founders of Soaring with Love Family Foundation, a charitable organization founded by families with children in the entertainment industry with the goal of helping families in need.

HOUSINGMV’s outreach program provides a range of support services that include supplying people with food, clothing and other necessities.

“In this early stage of our organization, we are offering creature comforts such as hygiene kits, water, food, clothes, masks and phone charging,” Doyno said. “HOUSINGMV’s Outreach Table on Tuesdays and Thursdays is an example of offering what we can right now, which begins relationships that will ease the work of an outreach worker from one of the agencies that can offer housing and make life a bit less burdensome for the unhoused.”

In coordinating with housing agencies, HOUSINGMV also provides contact information to homeless people so that they can reach out for any services needed from PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), St. Joseph Center, SHARE! (the Self-Help and Recovery Exchange) and Disability Community Resource Center.

“We are providing resources to the unhoused in the interim,” said Martha Davis, member on-boarding director. “Getting to know each person allows us to point them in the right direction. That is a huge piece of this.”

Research & prevention director Godafrin Dastur shared that HOUSINGMV is also creating intake forms and surveys for the unhoused so that they can better serve them.

“We are a fairly new organization and have not housed anyone at this point; however, we do refer people to St. Joseph, The People Concern, and Housing Works for the time being,” Longua-Zamero said.

In terms of getting people into housing, whether temporary or permanent, HOUSINGMV supports current programs like Housing Now. Councilmembers Ridley-Thomas and Mike Bonin motioned to establish the “Housing Now” Fund, which encompasses permanent supportive housing, bridge temporary housing and safe camping.

“We are in full support of the ‘Housing Now’ program proposed by Mark Ridley-Thomas with support of Mike Bonin and other like-minded officials trying to help the homeless crisis,” Hirschkoff said.

“’Housing Now’ has the city, state and federal government working together to providing housing and services now. If everyone approves it, then money will flow to the right channels, and we can start to see real change in the community.”

Generating interest from the homeless population to moving indoors takes special skills. Helping people with everyday needs and guidance is a different process than the actual decision to move off the street.

“Someday when we have enough funds to hire professional outreach workers, we hope to get people housed, and offer financial assistance for first and last month’s rent to get the unhoused started on the right path,” Hirschkoff said. “That will require a lot of fundraising on our part.”

Another beneficial organization is Housing First, which houses people first then supplies services. This is effective in moving people into short-term or permanent housing quickly without a laundry list of stipulations.

“Most programs have specific requirements and eligibility standards which create a high barrier for most to access,” said Sarah Fay, outreach education homeless advocate. “Housing First eliminates the barriers and is based on a person-centered and by-choice basis. Services should never be forced; rather a plethora of suitable options that fits each person’s needs. Everybody has a very unique and different story; many of which are not a result of drugs or mental illness.”