MRT on Point


By Mark Ridley-Thomas 

Praxis| Feb. 27, 2023

This year, the Empowerment Congress hosted its 31st Annual Summit at Charles R. Drew University of Science and Medicine and implored participants to grow as leaders in times of crisis, reminding them that such requires addressing hard truths, clinging steadfast to integrity, and fostering reconciliation. Each Summit Workshop rose to the occasion to represent this theme, and the Homelessness Workshop achieved just that!

The EC Summit 31 Homelessness Workshop delved into the most complex moral crisis of our times – homelessness. I had the distinct pleasure of opening the Homelessness Workshop, commenting on the landscape of homelessness throughout Los Angeles, and invoking participants to stay empowered and engaged with efforts towards addressing this most pressing moral crisis. I subsequently introduced Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, who delivered a powerful communication with pertinent updates on the state of homelessness throughout Los Angeles, and shared additional information on LA Mayor Bass’ current homelessness initiatives and how they complement the efforts of the EC Homelessness Working Group.

The workshop then ensued with a presentation that introduced leaders to a tangible solution to address the homelessness crisis – the EC Bridge Building Homeless Outreach Strategy. Participants then heard from a panel of experts that contributed to the development of this novel strategy. We heard from Dr. Alisa Orduña, Shaphan Roberts, and Reba Stevens. The panelists reinforced the imperative need for bridge building as an intervention for homelessness throughout Los Angeles, and underscored that most of us inherently possess the tools requisite to be effective bridge builders. The workshop culminated with a Q&A session that spurred community dialogue and a closeout from EC Leadership Council members and workshop facilitators, Grace Weltman and Rhea Mac.

It has been over a month since the EC Summit31 and the fruits sewn in the Summit Homelessness workshop have already started to blossom. EC facilitators, workshop participants, and fellow Angelenos have begun to dig into the powerful call to action they received at the workshop, through continued participation in the EC Homelessness Working Group. Co-chaired by EC Leadership Council Members Etsemaye Agonafer and Rhea Mac, the EC Homelessness Working Group participated in the 2023 LAHSA Homeless Point in Time Count in Leimert Park in late January, and hosted their first meeting of the year on February 23rd. At their meeting, the group further discussed the EC Bridge Building Homeless Outreach Strategy, homelessness policy updates throughout Los Angeles (many of which were also  hared in this publication), and aptly noted the intersectionality between Mayor Bass’ strategy and the working group’s strategy.

I am encouraged by the promising efforts of this group. The EC Homelessness Working group reminds us that it takes community, it takes engagement, it takes compassion, and most of all it takes heart to continue the work to tackle this unprecedented crisis. The  empowerment Congress at large remains steadfastly committed to educating, engaging, and empowering our communities to judiciously strive towards participatory democracy, reciprocal accountability, and intentional civility towards cultivating equity. These are key elements in the effort to grapple with homelessness: the defining moral crisis of our time. We heartily welcome your involvement.