Non-profit organizations are helping California cities and counties to become safer, cleaner and more economically efficient.

Currently, there are an estimated 73,000 homeless people in Los Angeles alone and up to 2,800 in Sacramento. When included with all other localities in the state, the numbers are staggering as are their potentially negative consequences.

This amount of homelessness causes many problems for local jurisdictions: crime, dirty streets, less appeal to potential employers, less appeal to potential residents, re-location by current residents, more pressure on local police, stress fiscally on local governments to take of needy citizens, destruction of public property and more.

Non-profit organizations assist in remedying the problem to localities by leading homeless people to lives of self-sufficiency.

Marie Ladine, who serves as the Educational Development Director of City Impact in San Francisco, said the organization aims to empower the homeless to reach their potential as self-sufficient citizens in the city’s Tenderloin community where a large homeless population exists.

“The City Impact vision is to transform the Tenderloin community by meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of individuals and families,” Ladine said.

City Impact reaches 18,000 San Francisco individuals per year at the holidays alone with food, gifts and housing. They provide an estimated 30-40,000 meals a year and its school and youth program reaches another 500 children per year.

These people would otherwise be on the street and involved in potentially destructive kinds of activities.

“We really want to reach the children of our community before the drug dealers, gangs and predators do,” Ladine said.

Just this summer, the City of San Francisco has been forced to lay off several Parks and Recreation Directors, leaving a void for local children.

“This year has seen more growth for our program than ever before because the city fired 70 parks and recreation directors,” said Ladine. “We have two parks in the Tenderloin District closed down so kids who were going there had no where to go. So they came to us.”

Currently, City Impact is working on a campaign entitled “Build a Classroom, Build a Future.”

“Our goal is to bring up to code an entire run down building, build 12 new classrooms, serve 350 students and raise up future leaders and productive people for the world. We hope to complete this project by End of 2009,” in a statement on their Web site.

Imagine LA is another non-profit lessening the burden of local governments.

Imagine LA’s efforts are focused on the Los Angeles County homeless family population, which is growing at an alarming rate of 35 percent in the last year alone.

“What we really do is work with multi-faith communities in partnering them with the formally homeless who are leaving transitional housing facilities which are many times operated by the city,” said Michelle Mitchell, Program and Operations Manager for Imagine LA.

“We offer two-year programs for people to help them find jobs, get furniture for their houses, acquire kitchen items and much, much more,” Mitchell said.

These efforts are intended to keep formerly homeless people from giving up and going back to their lives on the streets that result in destructive habits, not just for them but for the city overall. 

Currently, there are nearly 8,000 homeless families with over 18,000 children in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles there are also over 8,000 churches, synagogues and mosques.

Imagine LA hopes that each of these faith-based organizations can adopt a homeless family and help them achieve long-term housing and self-sufficiency.

“Imagine LA has limitless potential of mobilizing the community to help solve problems so often swept under the ‘government’s problem’ carpet,” said Jill Bauman, Executive Director of Imagine LA.         

“Thus far, we have received both financial and promotional help from LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky,” Bauman said.  “Zev is on the forefront of homeless issues in Los Angeles.” 

Supervisor Yaroslavsky mentioned that Imagine LA is on the forefront of needed change and leadership in the LA community.

Flora Gil Krisiloff, Deputy of Homelessness and Mental Health for Supervisor Yaroslavsky, sad, “It’s the idea of trying to solve homelessness that is so complicated and costly, and that Imagine LA has stepped up to take a voluntary role in mentoring homeless families and helping with resources is a wonderful thing.”

“Another vocal supporter has been City Councilwoman and recently City Controller, Wendy Greuel. Greuel has begun to help us look at the cost benefit analysis of truly getting a family back on track and keeping the children out of the over burdened foster system,” Bauman said.

Also making positive strides in the Los Angeles area is the LA Dream Center which strives to help solve moral decay, crime, drugs, gangs, homelessness and poverty epidemics that exist in LA’s inner-city.

Each night in Los Angeles, over 11,000 people sleep on the sidewalks. Today in L.A., one of six families is living below the poverty line. The average family income for the poor has declined 24 percent since 1967.

That can only have negative impacts on the city with less people working, less people paying taxes and more dependence being put on the local government.

“The Dream Center is surrounded by gang members who actively recruit young children into lives of violence and drugs. Poverty and addictions have sent many to live on the streets,” in a statement from the Dream Center’s Web site.

The Dream Center staff implements programs that “meet the needs, help the hurts and solve the problems of the inner-city” by developing new and creative methods to communicate a positive message to those who would otherwise not hear it.

Its mission statement states that, “We provide food, clothing, shelter, life rehabilitation, education and job training, Biblical training and much more through our 273 ministries and outreaches.”

The non-profit’s efforts have been noticed and appreciated by LA local government officials.

“The mayor and city council have publicly acknowledged the dramatic impact of the Dream Center and praised its efforts,” in a statement from their Web site.

“We appreciate our local government and all of their efforts and work. We look forward to continuing and growing the way we work together on behalf of the community,” said Carrie Miller, Public Relations Director for the Dream Center.

Jason Harper, Director of Equal Start based in Sacramento, offers a unique service to the community that local administrators should be aware of.

Harper made national headlines last summer when he completed a 100-mile run that was aimed at providing health care for uninsured students at Sacramento’s Oak Ridge Elementary School.

Oak Ridge has been largely considered one of the most under-performing schools in California up until a year ago.

“Principle Steve Lewis of Oak Ridge Elementary stated that one of the best ways we could help increase the children’s standardized test scores was by working to provide them health care,” Harper stated.

Harper collected pledges, completed the marathon, and saw the creation of Equal Start, a non-profit organization that has since poured over $250,000 in support, supplies, and 2,500 hours of volunteer services into Oak Ridge Elementary School.

From treatment for toothaches to glasses for vision problems, addressing these needs could improve their academic performance, thereby improving their lives.

At the very least, Harper and his team of supporters, including parents, school staff and community volunteers, hoped to give these inner-city kids an equal start on the path to success.

Harper said that local government officials have been on board with him and his efforts from the beginning.

“Former Sacramento City Unified School District board member Rick Jennings, Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, State Senator’s office Darrell Steinberg, and U.S. Congressman Dan Lungren have been very supportive,” Harper said.

“Corporate entities have really come along side of us also and helped us reach our goals as sponsors,” Harper said.

Harper stated that local government officials would benefit from the services Equal Start can provide.

“I would say right now, Sacramento is a bedrock of some of the greatest charitable organizations in the state and when given the opportunity I would love to showcase some of the great children of our city,” Harper stated.

“For when seeing those kids it will reinforce the value that local officials are making at the legislative level,” Harper said.

Andrew Carico can be reached at