Wealth inequality in the United States has become increasingly apparent, and it is visible in locations such as New York City and Los Angeles. Every night, nearly 60,000 Los Angeles County residents remain on city streets, and a total of 85 percent of those individuals are adults without children.
Dr. Colette Nichols is a business consultant in healthcare and technology as well as a social entrepreneur and founded The Empower Foundation in 2019. The Foundation’s ambitions include three major community issues — ending homelessness, supporting vulnerable children and improving health. With an approach that emphasizes collaboration, innovation, risk-taking, and most importantly, results, Dr. Colette Nichols believes that education is an important factor in shifting public and social opinions on homelessness to find empathetic solutions. She takes the time to highlight how communities can support the ongoing issue of homelessness.
What it Means to be Homeless
Homelessness means different things to different people, and ‘sleeping rough’ can refer to the streets, in an encampment, or couch surfing. Dr. Colette Nichols explains that in Los Angeles, you do not need to walk very far to witness individuals sleeping on the streets. Many people spend their nights in temporary shelters, or spaces not meant for human habitation, such as abandoned buildings, or transport hubs. The number of homeless people in Los Angeles has grown by 33% over the past four years.
Additionally, Los Angeles has the largest percentage of individuals in the United States who do not sleep in emergency shelters. According to Dr. Nichols, approximately one-fifth sleep in tents or makeshift shelters, and roughly 30 percent reside in vehicles that are often in-operable. It might make you wonder, what has caused the skyrocketing rates of homelessness in Los Angeles?
Factors Currently Contributing to Homelessness
This broad and ranging issue is far too complex to identify any one factor, but there are at least three major contributing factors: unemployment and underemployment, mental health struggles, and unaffordable housing.
The truth is that most people now on the streets failed to earn enough to cover their bills. Colette Nichols explains that once an individual loses their home, apartment, or place of residence, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain stable employment. When employment is difficult to maintain, housing is as well. Housing development, especially lower-cost rental housing, has not kept up with demand, and little has been built over the past 30 years in Los Angeles, even though the city’s population has grown by 15 percent in that period. Struggles with mental health can happen on either end of the equation.
Homelessness can happen to any one of us. More than 780,000 people living in Los Angeles spent more than 90 percent of their income on rent. These precariously housed individuals are at a high risk of homelessness for this reason. Dr. Colette Nichols wants you to know that the causes we should all rally around are the ones that have purpose, to make a difference, and to do something meaningful. The importance of anything is that it’s bigger than you, it’s a higher calling, and to always keep your eye on that principle. Are you interested in helping to solve Los Angeles’ homeless crisis? Dr. Colette Nichols and The Empower Foundation are trying to find innovative solutions that focus on collaboration and risk-taking to eradicate poverty in Los Angeles. When you donate to the organization, you can choose which mission you want to fund, this includes supporting the foundation’s homelessness initiatives. Through events like benefit concerts for homelessness in Los Angeles, Dr. Colette Nichols and The Empower Foundation are making huge strides to making homelessness a memory of the past.