California has the largest population of homeless individuals in America and every day we witness the reality of the homeless crisis unfolding around us. Individuals and families struggling to meet their daily needs have become so pervasive that it’s easy to become complacent and overwhelmed by the size and scope of the problem. 

At HMC, we care deeply about the homeless crisis. 

For the past 70 years, HMC has designed schools, hospitals, and civic and cultural facilities–places where students learn, patients heal and communities come together. Our commitment to building vibrant, healthy communities goes beyond architecture. We are committed to leveraging all of our assets to positively impact the communities in which HMC operates and its employee owners live and work. HMC has worked to address poverty and the homeless crisis through the award of philanthropic grants from the HMC foundation and has leveraged the impact of these investments through pro bono design services and employee volunteerism.

In 2009, HMC founded the Designing Futures Foundation (DFF), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) grant-making organization to deepen the firm’s commitment to giving back. The mission of the DFF is to build a better world and over the past decade the foundation has awarded more than $1 million dollars in charitable donations to nonprofits that are making a difference in our communities. Here is an overview of the recent DFF grants and volunteer activities that HMC staff have supported to address the ongoing homeless crisis:

The Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture

As Los Angeles County works to find sustainable solutions to the humanitarian crisis of homelessness, the DFF awarded a $10,000 grant to the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture to underwrite the printing of, “Part of the Solution: YES to ADU,” an architectural design resource featuring concepts for granny flats or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) developed by emerging and established leaders in design and architecture. The publication serves as a resource guide for homeowners, planners, architects, artists, policymakers and advocates addressing the homeless crisis and lack of affordable housing. 

This project stems from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture Civic Art Program’s work in partnership with the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative, Department of Regional Planning, and the Community Development Commission on the Second Dwelling Unit Pilot Program. The role of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture Civic Art initiative is to catalyze the community of architects, designers, planners and creative strategists to re-imagine the potential of ADUs as a housing typology that works in conjunction with other strategies to help alleviate LA County’s housing pressure. The “Part of the Solution: YES to ADU,” publication is available in all LA County public libraries.

Left: DFF President Adrienne Luce celebrates the completion of the “Part of the Solution: Yes to ADU” publication with Kristin Sakoda, director, LA County Department of Arts and Culture.

Right: The final “Part of the Solution: Yes to ADU” resource guide

LA-Más 

The DFF awarded a $5,000 grant to LA-Más, an urban design nonprofit that helps lower-income and underserved communities shape their future through policy and architecture. The grant will:  1) Support the completion of 10 Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as part of the Backyard Homes Project, 2) Position the Backyard Homes Project as a model for a new ADU incentive program to be developed and managed by the City of Los Angeles, and 3) Support the expansion of the program from the City of Los Angeles to the larger County of Los Angeles. (Architecture / Design).

LA-Más ADU in Highland Park

Photography by Stephen Schauer

HomeAid Inland Empire

The DFF awarded a $10,000 grant to HomeAid to for the renovation and remodel of an existing transitional residence for homeless men in Lake Elsinore, California. The project is in partnership with Project Touch, a nonprofit that serves up to 130 individuals daily including children, single mothers, emancipated foster youth, victims of domestic violence, seniors, mentally and physically disabled, veterans and families. Project Touch provides comprehensive case management, employment assistance, transportation, food, clothing, medical assistance and more to the most vulnerable members in their community. The goal of the project is to help those in need; with a safe haven in order to transition back into a position of empowerment and ultimately for the betterment of the overall community. HMC employees will volunteer to help with the housing upgrades. HMC also supports HomeAid’s ongoing programs throughout the year including the Full Bellies Warm Hearts Back-to-School Backpack Drive, Young Lives Diaper Drive, and Thanksgiving Morning Homeless Breakfast.

Hope Through Housing Foundation

The DFF awarded a $5,000 grant and provided pro bono design services to the Hope Through Housing Foundation  (HTHF) to renovate and transform an existing after-school program space that is cramped, unattractive and under-utilized at the mountainside property in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The goal of the project is to create an attractive teen center that encourages creativity, increases participation and reinforces college and career exploration for resident youth where they can gather, do homework, research college or job prospects, and just hang with their friends.

For the past 21 years, HTHF has been dedicated to breaking the generational cycle of poverty by empowering residents through a powerful place-based model. By delivering an array of quality health and social services to low-income residents within National CORE affordable housing communities, HTHF impacts the lives and futures of thousands of children, adults, and seniors each year. HTHF partners with an array of qualified service providers to help provide more intensive case management and services to special populations including the formerly homeless, veterans, developmentally disabled, and emancipated and transitional age youth. As a result of HTHF’s work, students are graduating from high school and becoming the first in their family to enter college; parents are building careers, financial capacity, and are becoming homeowners; and seniors are realizing a healthy, fulfilling life where they can thrive and live independently.

Operation SafeHouse

The DFF awarded a $10,000 grant to Operation Safe House through a partnership with the Annenberg Foundation. For the past 28 years, Operation SafeHouse in Riverside, California has provided emergency shelter, intervention and outreach services to runaway, homeless, and other youth in crisis. Teens who don’t know where else to go are always welcome at Operation SafeHouse shelters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—all they have to do is show up. A licensed marriage and family therapist is available to work with families in crisis to create a holistic plan of action to bring relief from the tension and stress at home. Operation SafeHouse provides support to families who need help negotiating the often challenging road from childhood to an independent adult life.

Keli May Foundation

The DFF awarded a $10,000 grant to the Keli May Foundation to support at-risk young adults in foster care. Warren Rutledge and his wife Cynthia created the Keli May Foundation to honor the memory of their daughter who was killed by a drunk driver. The grant will go toward the building of the Keli May Center and the creation of a campus to serve homeless and at-risk young adults transitioning out of the foster care system. At the same time, the Keli May Foundation, in collaboration with HMC and community volunteers, provides ongoing help to those most in need by packing homeless survival kits for homeless to survive during the sweltering summers in Phoenix, Arizona. Due to the epidemic of at-risk young adults exiting the foster care system who have limited to no direction, support or stability, the Keli May Foundation’s goal is to be the “Roots” to develop the possibility of a brighter future by creating a temporary home and equipping those young adults with life skills and a connection through community, love and support.

United Way of Greater Los Angeles Homewalk

For the past seven years, staff from our Ontario, California and Los Angeles offices have joined thousands of walkers and runners for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles Homewalk, a 5K walk and run that raises funds to help end homelessness. United Way of Greater Los Angeles provides assistance to low-income families, students, veterans, and those already experiencing homelessness. 

“Homelessness is a big issue in California and I believe that as a community, we should do whatever we can to support our homeless neighbors. I was glad for the opportunity to walk Homewalk and support United Way’s mission to end homelessness.  I’m very proud that HMC shares this vision of helping others. I had a great time spending Saturday morning with team HMC.”—Kathleen Stanton, HMC Ontario

Riverside Walk to End Homelessness

In April, HMC staff participated in the Riverside 5K Walk to End Homelessness. The goal of the event was to raise $35,000 dollars to provide individuals and families with the items necessary to transition out of homelessness, into permanent housing and obtain employment. Thanks to federal and state funded programs, some of these needs can be met, but often times, many of the most obvious needs are excluded like: refrigerators, beds, school text books and supplies, fees for testing and licensing, tools of the trade, work boots, tape measures, or kitchen tools for culinary occupations. In order to meet this goal the event secured sponsorships from local businesses and support from individual community members.

Milpitas USD

After learning about the higher than normal seasonal increase in homeless families whose children attend the Milpitas USD schools, staff from the HMC San Jose office met with the district’s McKinney-Vento/Homeless + Foster Youth Liaison, Ms. Nicole Steward, to learn more about how we could make a difference for these families during the holiday season. Steward shared that due to the extreme spike in local rents, one family was notified that their two-bedroom, 1970s rental home would nearly triple in cost, increasing from $1600 to $4200 within the month. Currently, there are over 200 MUSD families that are statistically homeless; they may be living out of their cars, a trailer or RV, or going from house to house. Steward emphasized that while some families are truly poor and without funds, many are employed parents. However, these moms and dads are making minimum or low wages and cannot afford even modest housing. And for many, if they could make the monthly payments, they cannot meet the typical upfront deposit costs or pass credit checks.  All of these factors create very challenging issues for the students living in these environments. Steward shared that the biggest need is providing a day’s or week’s worth of hotel or motel stays, as well as providing gift cards to Target and Safeway. Our HMC San Jose staff were moved by these stories and motivated to help so they donated Target and Safeway gift cards to Steward to provide to the highest-need families. 

Habitat for Humanity

For more than three years the staff of HMC Los Angeles have joined hundreds of volunteers for the annual Habitat for Humanity Power Women Power Tools event to bring awareness surrounding the pressing need for affordable housing in the greater Los Angeles area. Habitat for Humanity is also the DFF’s signature partner for disaster relief response. HMC contributed more than $1,200 via employee donations and a DFF matching grant to Habitat for Humanity Sonoma County in response to the devastating fires in Northern California. The DFF also donated more than $3,000 in employee donations and a DFF matching grant to Habitat for Humanity in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Urma, and Maria.