It Takes a Community: The Importance of Community to Hollywood 4WRD and Hollywood 2.0

It Takes a Community: The Importance of Community to Hollywood 4WRD and Hollywood 2.0

H4WRD Blog

By Tim Davis, Communications & Operations Director for Hollywood 4WRD

In a lovely stroke of synchronicity, my first day as Hollywood 4WRD’s Communications and Operations Director, July 11th, 2022, coincided with the launch of the LACDMH’s innovative pilot program, Hollywood 2.0. As Hollywood 2.0 (or “H20” as it’s now known) and I both enter our 2nd year, I wanted to share some brief reflections on the importance of community, which I’ve come to recognize as the lifeblood of both the H20 program AND the H4WRD organization.

For the uninitiated, as I was 13 months ago, H20 was inspired by the progressive, community-based model of care practiced in the town of Trieste, Italy, to treat their citizens who live with mental health conditions. The program had been gestating for several years, and in fact was initially called the “TRIESTE Pilot”, before it finally received funding by a large MHSA grant and was rebranded “Hollywood 2.0.” The grant was to be implemented by LACDMH, while Hollywood 4WRD was selected as H20’s community liaison, brought on to educate, activate and inspire contributions from the various stakeholders in the Hollywood community. So July 11th, 2022, was a big day for Hollywood 4WRD, and perhaps a slightly intimidating one if it happened to be your first day on the job.

Over the course of the next year, as I slowly but surely settled into my new role, I had a ringside seat for H20’s similarly steady evolution. I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand how important community is, not only as an integral part of the foundation of H20 but as a tool and resource to help those experiencing mental illness and homelessness, the very people the H20 program and H4WRD are dedicated to serving.

The definition of community – “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society” – barely scratches the surface of the concept of community that fuels H20. 

When a delegation of LA leaders arrived in Trieste in 2017, hailing from mental health and advocacy agencies to service providers and city officials, they were blown away by how well the town cared for its most vulnerable. Those experiencing mental health conditions in Trieste were embraced by the community, surrounded by PEOPLE who loved them, given a PLACE where they could heal and live, and offered lives with PURPOSE that allowed them to integrate back into society with jobs, education, and mentorship. As a result of this and other economic and cultural factors, there was little to no homelessness in evidence in Trieste. The LA delegation returned home determined to import this People/Place/Purpose model of “radical hospitality” back to an American community that needed it badly. 

Community has also and always been at the heart of Hollywood 4WRD. Since its formation in 2008, the mission of H4WRD has been to prevent and end street homelessness. H4WRD’s founding members were well aware of the enormity of the goal they’d set for themselves. They knew from the start how essential it would be to incentivize the entire Hollywood community to be part of an effective solution.

One of the gifts of working at H4WRD has been recognizing how committed each of our community cohorts are to our collective goal, even as we may pursue that goal for different reasons. LAHSA’S 2023 Count results, for instance, can be viewed through a wide range of lenses, depending on whether you’re a service provider, a council member, or a Faith-based leader. Similarly, the recent Inside Safe event on Selma Ave. had a very different impact on the person experiencing homelessness than it did on the local resident or business owner (and P.S. it’s important to recognize that not all residents, business owners and/or people experiencing homelessness think alike!).  What H4WRD does so skillfully is to elevate each community member’s voice, individually and collectively, and keep everyone pointed towards our common goals. 

By serving as both a community hub AND a safe space where a wide range of perspectives are welcome, H4WRD is able to convene forums where effective solutions can be reached despite our differences

One of the best examples of Hollywood 4WRD’s value to the community occurred at the member event we held in June at the W hotel. The assembled were gathered to hear some hard truths about the twin scourges of drug addiction and homelessness, and included folks from all the various stakeholders in the H4WRD community. There was plenty of disagreement in the room about the best pathways forward, but very little conflict. Instead, the disagreements were expressed easily, calmly, and respectfully. A personal highlight was catching a Hollywood resident schmoozing with a rep from a local councilmember’s office. Just weeks earlier, these two had differed greatly on the best approach to the encampments in Hollywood. At our 6/13 member event, they were smiling and finding common ground.

The other shining example of how H4WRD best serves its community is, of course, the H20 program itself.

It’s been particularly gratifying watching the H20 and H4WRD communities overlap in the last year, and inspire each other to greater heights, and deeper, more sustainable solutions. I’m blessed to call myself a member of both communities, and to find myself cheering them both on from the inside out. I can’t wait to see what Year Two has in store for H20 and me. With our communities at our backs, I believe we’re both in pretty good shape.