Filling in the Los Angeles Gap
The My Stuff Bags Foundation meets with the LAUSD Homeless Education Program and discovers ways to help students in our own backyard.
As the sun ignites the Hollywood letters, Los Angeles is awakened by the bustling commuters and coffee cravers. Life unfolds and we’re often forgetful of the prevalent needs in our own backyard – needs of hope, needs of comfort, and needs of love. For a city of ritzy accomplishments and great fortune, 16,300 students have been identified homeless in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Many of them have few, if any, possessions. The numbers keep rising and few are doing something about it.
Westlake Village, California is home to an organization working hard to change this. Established in 1998, the My Stuff Bags Foundation began as a response to a cry for help from the very people who rescue and care for abused, neglected, and sometimes, homeless children. Caregivers describe children arriving at crisis shelters in just a dirty t-shirt, with nothing of their own. With agencies simply unable to provide any basic childhood necessities, the My Stuff Bags Foundation fills in the gaps to over 1,400 agencies and programs nationwide, supplying duffels of new belongings, filled with clothing, toiletries, a favorite toy, a cuddly stuffed animal, and the warmth of a treasured blanket. Volunteers serve year-round, donating items and stuffing bags.
Janeen Holmes, CEO of My Stuff Bags, is humbled by the community involvement and expresses her gratitude for all the people who support the Foundation.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see so many people care. What started around the kitchen table has grown into something we could have never imagined,” says Holmes.
The Foundation continues to give particular attention within its own community, serving the immense needs of Los Angeles. Holmes recently met with Stephan Blustajn, Los Angeles Unified School District Homeless Education Program counselor and advocate for Local District 3, along with seven passionate LAUSD counselors and social workers. Assisting in school enrollment, medical and housing referrals, and basic necessities, Blustajn and his team will be distributing 840 bags from the My Stuff Bags Foundation to LAUSD students in need.
Blustajn discusses the widespread need for My Stuff Bags and the affect they carry; allowing students to both connect with a counselor and experience the powerful ways a My Stuff Bag can decrease stress.
“A lot of kids are in school but they are not emotionally present. My Stuff Bags creates a connection between us (the school counselors) and the students, showing we care. The bags create stability in a child’s life,” says Blustajn.
Tammy Wood, Parent Resource Liaison for the Homeless Education Program, discusses the importance of networking with the My Stuff Bags Foundation.
“We need help providing students with clothing and supplies so that they find a sense of belonging in school and its one less thing to worry about,” says Wood.
LAUSD Homeless Education Program is one of the many agencies served by the My Stuff Bags Foundation, helping fulfill the unmet needs of children. But work is far from over. The crisis of child abuse, neglect and sometimes, homelessness is ongoing, and the Foundation continually needs donations of crucial funding as well as new children’s items to ensure the duffels be free of charge for the citywide and even larger, nationwide crisis.