The stereotypical image of homelessness in LA County is of someone holding up a battered "Will Work for Food" sign at a freeway off-ramp. Yet Ken Craft, founder of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, says that the current state of homelessness looks more like a family portrait than that of a disheveled alcoholic.
"On any given night, there are 80,000 homeless people in LA," Craft says. "The larger percentage of those folks have fallen prey to what we call situational homelessness. Someone in the family has lost a job. Maybe there is a health crisis or they're fleeing domestic abuse. Suddenly, they find themselves living in their car on the streets."
Adapting to meet these changing needs, Hope of the Valley has grown to become the second-largest provider of services for the homeless in the Greater LA area in just five short years. Last year, the mission provided more than 93,000 meals and 37,000 nights of shelter. Just as important, it was instrumental in helping 116 people make the milestone leap into permanent housing.
Founding and current Board Member David Delaplane says that transformational change is the ultimate goal of the mission. "We don't want to just put people back on the streets after a meal. We focus on providing a life–changing process that takes them from streets to sustainability."
When Hope of the Valley needed housing of its own, City National was there to help with financing for a 16,000-square-foot, two-story facility in Mission Hills, which will soon be home to a large-scale food-service operation as well as a first-of-its-kind recuperative care facility for homeless folks who are injured or ill.
"I was greatly surprised by their receptiveness and their willingness to work with us," Craft says. "Many banks thought we were too small and too much of a risk, so they didn't want to work with us or they wanted to charge exorbitant rates. City National went out of their way to become a true partner with us."
Delaplane, who has been a City National client for 32 years, made the initial introduction. "I believe in the mission, and I believed that City National would be a good fit. Anna Markarian got us the most competitive rate out there and really worked with us to get us into the building."
"I've been absolutely, thoroughly impressed with the bank and their willingness to be engaged in the community and create effective change in the community. They believe, as I do, that it's good business to give back to the community."
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