Even if you're not religious, it's hard not to shout "Amen!" after what he says.
Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.
But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.
"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."
She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.
"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."
Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.
"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.
"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."
Courtesy of Judy Vaughan
Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."
Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.
Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.
"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."
And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.
A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.
And so far, the program is a resounding success.
92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.
Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.
"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."
Kelly Donohue ended a three-game "Jeopardy!" winning streak Tuesday night, leaving him with an impressive $80,601 in cash. But his performances have set off a social media firestorm because of two instances that some claimed were racist signals.
The situation inspired an open letter addressing the issue signed by over 500 former "Jeopardy!" contestants.
Throughout Donoahue's brief run on the show, he signaled the number of games he won through hand gestures. After his first win last Friday, he held up one finger and after his Monday victory, he held up two. That was all fine and good. But it was after his third victory that things got complicated.
On Tuesday, he held up three fingers and it caused a lot of discussion on social media.
@andersoncooper did you notice contestant Kelly Donohue flash the white power sign on the show tonight??? #jeopardy https://t.co/Nw7mbRjMkw— West Law Firm | Nyasha West (@West Law Firm | Nyasha West)1619567223.0
The three-finger symbol he made resembles the "okay" sign, a gesture that was officially designated as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League in 2019. The gesture is similar to one used by the white supremacist group the Three Percenters and the Proud Boys.
But it's also how a lot of people make a number three with their hands.
The group of former contestants didn't see it as a clear-cut symbol for the number three. "He held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest," the open letter says.
"This, whether intentional or not, resembled very closely a gesture that has been coopted by white power groups, alt right groups, and an anti-government group that calls itself the Three Percenters," the letter continued.
"Stand Back and Stand By" Roger Stone with the White Supremacist Proud Boys, putting up the "OK hand symbol". (Sar… https://t.co/dGQE6JGfU3— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐚𝐨 𝐨𝐟 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦, 𝐌𝐒𝐖☯️ (@𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐚𝐨 𝐨𝐟 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦, 𝐌𝐒𝐖☯️)1601459058.0
Donohue also courted controversy during his Monday performance by using the term "Gypsy" to refer to Roma people. "The use of this term doesn't necessarily indicate malice; until recently, it was widely used by English speakers," the letter reads. "Current diversity style guides, however, suggest that it not be used, and that Roma or Romani be used instead. Host Anderson Cooper noted this on-air."
The group of former contestants couldn't believe that both incidents made it on air because, in the past, "Jeopardy!" producers have edited or reshot moments from the show that could cause controversy.
Donohue's first response to allegations that this three symbol was a hate gesture was pretty clear.
"That's a 3. No more. No less," he wrote on Facebook. But his statement wasn't enough for the former contestants who urged him to provide an "an apology and a total disavowal of any connection to white supremacist doctrines is called for."
So Donahue responded with a powerful post on Facebook where he clearly condemned white supremacy.
I'm truly horrified with what has been posted about me on social media. I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind. People who know me personally know that I am not a racist, but for the public at large it bears repeating: I am not a racist and I reject and condemn white supremacy and all forms of bigotry for the evil they are.
I'm truly horrified with what has been posted about me on social media. I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind. People who know me personally know that I am not a racist, but for the public at large it bears repeating: I am not a racist and I reject and condemn white supremacy and all forms of bigotry for the evil they are. It's shameful to me to think anyone would try to use the stage of Jeopardy! to advance or promote such a disgusting agenda. During the taping of my fourth episode, I was simply raising three fingers to mark my 3rd win. There was nothing more I was trying to indicate.
I deeply regret this terrible misunderstanding. I never meant to hurt a soul and I assure you I am no friend of racists or white supremacists.
I removed the previous post because the comments were more than I could bear. I stand by the statement itself and you can find it reported in other media. I did, however, understand the fair criticism that I did not include a forceful condemnation of white supremacy in my initial statement. I hope my feelings on that matter are clear now.
Donohue's story shows that there is so much tension around race in America that it's pretty easy for someone to accidentally find themselves in hot water. Most people probably aren't that well-versed in white supremacist hand gestures or slurs for Romani people, so it's pretty easy to assume that Donohue walked into the situation unknowingly.
While the former "Jeopardy!" contestants saw Donohue's performance as an opportunity to demand an apology from him, that may not have been the best way to handle things. In a situation where things are pretty nebulous, why not take the opportunity to educate the general public on racist slurs and hand gestures instead of making it personal? Their false accusation could have unfairly destroyed Donohue's life and the unjust impact their letter will have on him is still yet to be determined. Wouldn't it be nice if they responded to his thoughtful statement with a diplomatic statement of their own and show all of us how to have a meaningful dialogue?
2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.
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