If you are involved in our local community at all, then there’s a very good chance you already know Tammy Rosato. She’s the La Brea Hancock Homeowner’s Association president and neighborhood watch co-chair, a board member for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC) and homelessness liaison for La Brea Hancock. She also is a member of the Midtown Los Angeles Homeless Coalition Board, and she serves on the LAPD Wilshire Community Police Advisory Board (CPAB) for homeless outreach.
Looking at her involvement within the community, it’s easy to see where her passion lies: helping to solve Los Angeles’ homeless crisis.
“One day, after breaking down after an encounter with a homeless person in the Ralph’s grocery store parking lot, I decided I needed to learn more about what was happening and figure out how I could help,” recalls Rosato. “I said to myself, ‘I can’t walk by one more person.’”
The timing coincided with her stepson becoming a police officer in the Bay Area, so she and her husband took an LAPD Wilshire Community Police Academy class to understand all the aspects of her stepson’s new job. During the 10-week course, Rosato discovered an eye-opening fact: most officers spend over half of their time responding to homelessness calls.
“I realized that the officers were responding to all of these situations but they didn’t know who to call or what to do with the people they were encountering on the streets,” says Rosato. “At this point, I decided to educate myself. I attended every meeting I could find, including participating in the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority’s (LAHSA) homeless count. Listening to presentations and reviewing the numbers, I started to better understand how the homeless crisis was decades in the making and that it will probably take just as long to resolve. You have to identify the root problems first: drugs, mental illness, abuse.”
Armed with her new-found knowledge, Rosato created a pocket-sized “Homeless Services & Resource Pocket Reference” guide that the police officers keep in their uniforms as well as on their laptops. This way, when they encounter a struggling homeless person on the street, whether it be someone who’s mentally ill, on drugs, an elderly person, or a woman who is running from an abusive situation, the officers now have a resource to connect them to a service provider.
“People keep talking about the housing shortage, which is a huge problem,” says Rosato, “but it’s way more complicated than that. We need to take a holistic approach to help all of the people who find themselves on the streets for different reasons: students who are couch surfing, seniors whose rent is going up, mentally ill who have no place to go, drug-addicted people, young people who are running from sex trafficking.”
All of this dedicated, hard work has changed the focus of her life.
“My husband nicknamed me Erin Brockovich,” Rosato laughs, “because once I found my voice I couldn’t stop talking about these things. He calls me a super sleuth!”
One of the biggest hurdles Rosato has discovered during her research is the inability of different counties to work together to solve this statewide issue.
“There should be more coordination between districts and counties,” explains Rosato. “I hope they can be more collaborative in coming up with ideas to get people off of the streets into permanent housing,” she says.
Rosato hails from Michigan and attended high school in Thousand Oaks, but she has called the Greater Wilshire area her home since 1998. She moved to the area to be closer to her job with a printing company at the time, but has since devoted herself full-time to community service and outreach.
By participating in the 2018 homeless count, Rosato discovered that homelessness in the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods increased by double digits from 2017 to 2018. She chalks this up to the lack of “bridge” or supportive housing in the area, combined with the knowledge that people are moving out of the dangerous skid row downtown area and into safer communities where they may have friends, family or local knowledge.
Rosato is fully supportive of Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu’s efforts to come up with creative solutions to address our most vulnerable neighbors in Council District Four.
“His weekly newsletters and website outline his calls for Ellis Act Reform, the Rent Relief Credit, and a recent motion to penalize landlords who hold housing units empty (there are estimates that there currently are more than 100,000 vacant apartments in the city). These important initiatives and new bridge and supportive housing are key to helping solve the crisis long term.”
“Our elected officials are trying,” Rosato continues, “and as a community member, I am going to keep going to meetings, trying to learn, share the information that I’ve learned, and try to solve this problem.”
Rosato wants community members to know that they can use their smartphones, tablets or computers to request help for a homeless person by going to la-hop.org, the Los Angeles County Homeless Outreach Portal, to request help for people experiencing homelessness on the streets of Los Angeles County.
As Rosato moves forward with her mission, she is comforted by the strong relationships she’s made within the community.
“There is such a dynamic group of people in this neighborhood,” explains Rosato. “I’m learning from all of them… and my desire to understand has taken me on this journey. It’s a conversation we’re all having — homelessness, affordable housing, transit — and it’s really important for people to participate… we need to work together because we can’t accomplish this by ourselves. I can only be successful with the help and relationships within the community.”