Written by Mizhen Qian
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane
On February 8th, 2023, after a three-year absence, members of the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness reunited for the 2023 Housing Summit at the Tzu Chi USA Headquarters campus. Nearly 200 participants, including representatives from municipal housing and welfare agencies, experts, scholars, and community organizations from cities in the San Gabriel Valley, in southern California, convened and discussed housing planning and affordable housing policies to assist individuals and families in need of housing in the area.
Solutions for Properly Housing the Unhoused
Debra Boudreaux, CEO of Tzu Chi USA, is a board member of the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness and was happy to facilitate the conference at the Tzu Chi USA Headquarters campus: “Tzu Chi has been in San Gabriel Valley for more than 33 years, and people experiencing homelessness is a major community challenge right now.”
The main purpose of the annual conference is to help understand the demand for housing and provide solutions for the unhoused, as well as assist efforts to build affordable housing in each city by mobilizing and organizing the power of neighborhoods and communities. The Consortium aims to combine the efforts of the state and local governments of California, as well as more than 400 civic groups, to better consolidate resources to combat the growing issues of housing affordability and to assist those struggling with homelessness in the San Gabriel Valley.
Scott Chamberlain, Executive Director of the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness, served as the moderator. He said, “The purpose (of the conference) is to be able to help to educate people about the needs for housing, to help to provide solutions for homeless services and build that community organizing effort so that every city builds affordable housing.” The recent increase in inflation in the U.S. has led to a surge in homelessness. Despite 32,000 people being housed in new homes in the San Gabriel Valley in 2022, 36,000 more have become unhoused due to a lack of affordable housing. Cognizant of this large, multifaceted, and pressing issue, conference participants engaged in lively discussions in an effort to find solutions.
At the conference, Tzu Chi USA CEO Debra Boudreaux also stated, “Tzu Chi has been working with communities and partners to find out what the problems are and what we can do to solve them. We want to work together through this Housing Summit to help the unhoused.”
The Housing Problem Has Always Been There
Participants from diverse fields came together to offer ideas and solutions to these community issues. Paul Cho, Chief Financial Officer of LifeArk shared: “We produce plastic modular housing. Plastic that we throw away is now creating homes for people. We started creating homes for the unhoused, but we can use the same plastic modular housing system to build more affordable housing.”
Yesenia Acosta, the Board Chair of the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness said: “The Consortium is like one big roof that helps people coordinate, and it’s just getting better, it’s growing and we’re trying to work with more cities.” She expressed her gratitude to Tzu Chi USA for hosting such a great event and hopes that it will continue in the future, as housing will always be an issue that the Consortium will need to address.
According to Tzu Chi USA CEO Debra Boudreaux, “Tzu Chi has been in the United States for more than 33 years and has been quietly and discreetly carrying out many services. By inviting the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness to our campus for its annual conference, we give the professional participants a better understanding of what Tzu Chi can do and is doing, which will help strengthen our partnership with our community partners in the future.”
Nearly 100 Volunteers Mobilized to Serve the Conference
Executive Director Scott Chamberlain led the group in a prayer for those affected by the earthquake in southern Turkey, sending good thoughts and blessings to the survivors and the loved ones of those who lost their lives. Tzu Chi volunteers set up a donation booth in the dining hall to raise money for earthquake relief efforts. Conference participants also went on a tour of the campus to learn more about Tzu Chi USA.
The participants had a full and enjoyable morning, helped by nearly 100 volunteers who mobilized to set up the venue and prepare food for the conference. At lunchtime, everyone had a vegetarian meal prepared by volunteers and toured the Tzu Chi USA Headquarters campus, which has an eco-recycling station, an eco-farm that cultivates fruits and vegetables using waste organic food compost, and a center that provides second-hand clothes for those in need. The conference participants were all impressed by the diverse and well-utilized environmental service projects.
Tzu Chi volunteers have long been involved in services for the unhoused in communities across the United States, providing not only livelihood assistance, hot food, and winter clothes and supplies, but also professional medical treatment including internal medicine, ophthalmology, dentistry, Chinese medicine, and acupuncture through the DaAI Mobile Clinic tours and community free clinics. These efforts have eased the suffering of many and helped numerous vulnerable members of society escape housing insecurity.
Participants read about the Buddhist Tzu Chi Charity Foundation. Photo/Youbin Huang