( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Katrina Williams Helps Homeless in Her Community With Annual Breakthrough Event
ENSPIRE Contributor: Keegan Kerns
With the creation of Changing the Faces of Homelessness, Katrina Williams is bringing attention and solutions to homelessness. With a focus on the LA County area, CFH helps provide healing and housing to homeless individuals. It often helps provide certain programs such as financial literacy courses so that these individuals can find not only a new home but also a new sustainable life that they have control over. Ms. Williams helped pioneer CFH’s Annual Breakthrough Event, which will occur this year on August 28th. This breakthrough event allows staff to accept applicants with no income and house them for 90 days at no charge while providing medication monitoring, financial literacy courses, and health and wellness classes, giving these individuals another fair chance no matter their circumstances.
Katrina Williams’ creation of CFH and this event comes from the tragic passing of actor Gary Hays, whom she knew from her time with him at Volunteers of America. Despite the terrible nature of the event, Williams has used it as motivation to create this program so that others can come back from the desperate circumstances that are homelessness and addiction. Thanks to Katrina Williams’s actions, many more are helped with the model program that is CFH. With further and continued involvement from the community, that number can increase as homelessness is addressed.
Katrina Williams allowed us to ask her a few questions regarding CFH, it’s mission, and her own goals.
What motivated you to work for Changing the Faces of Homelessness?
I decided to develop and implement a permanent supportive housing program after my client Gary “Hayes” Perez took his life after a long battle with addiction to alcohol with homelessness.
How did you come up with the idea for the Annual Breakthrough Events?
The Breakthrough Event idea came from one of my favorite hip hop gospel artist Canton Jones songs called Breakthrough. The message from the song was about rising above any obstacle with taking back ownership of your life with God. So likewise, the Breakthrough Events allow our organization to bring love with hope and empowerment. Every year, we show up with a message of empowerment by providing housing, food, and other services, including employment, to help our homeless community with taking the first step back from living a life of dependency to regaining self-sufficiency.
The 2nd Annual Breakthrough Event will honor the late actor Gary Hays, whom you knew during your time with Volunteers of America. How do you hope to honor him and his legacy with this event?
This year we’re honoring Gary by bringing healing with housing. Gary was so broken from his addiction to the life of homelessness. Also, one of his biggest fears was returning to homelessness during his recovery due to a lack of supportive housing services for individuals needing ongoing supports. Gary lost his battle with his addiction, but people will always remember him for his kindness the willingness to change. Gary’s death opened my eyes to what is needed to change the dynamics of homelessness, and that is providing real services to meet our homeless population’s realistic needs.
What are some of your future goals for CFH as an organization?
CFH’s goals are to expand our housing program by opening more homes to service the Tay population (youth phasing out of Foster Care) and families. The need is so great within the homeless sector. We have women with children, even families sleeping in cars. We have the elder being forced into homeless due to the cost of living. With the housing needs so great, we would like to have a housing subsidy program to subsidize rents for families and the elder within 2 years.
For those of us who aren’t near CFH, what are some ways that we as individuals can work to fight homelessness and provide more supportive communities in our towns?
The best way to start to fight homelessness is by meeting with the population and listening to their life journey with struggles. Be real with compassion and focus on their needs and where they’re trying to go. Then realize there are many barriers to homelessness such as addiction, mental illness, poverty, etc. Also, meet the homeless population where they are at, not where society says they should be. For example, some families are split because of limitations on family shelters. If a women’s and children’s shelter has beds, the father is placed at a shelter for men or coed non-family shelters. Finally, advocate your local governing officials for more funding to develop supportive housing programs that will provide resources and tools to turn an individual life from dependency to self-sufficiency.
Katrina Williams’s dedication to CFH and healing her community is incredibly admirable. Not only has Ms. Williams developed a program that helps provide housing for people in need, but she has additionally built several programs that help many of these individuals deal with issues that are often tied to homelessness, whether it’s addiction, financial literacy, or other issues. This expansion of the program makes it a way to help residents and provide a way to provide a path for them to create their own stable futures. Both the mission of CFH and the determination of Ms. Williams in creating and delivering on that mission are admirable, and we should look to figures like Ms. Williams when seeking to address similar problems in our own communities.