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These renovated motels will help homeless veterans start new lives.

L.A. is creating 500 new housing units with this smart plan.

These renovated motels will help homeless veterans start new lives.

In 2015, Los Angeles declared a state of emergency because of their "unprecedented and growing homelessness crisis."

Since then, L.A. city and county agencies have executed a series of actions, and while homelessness overall has had a slight rise in 2016 — not quite 6% over 2015 figures — the number of veterans without homes has gone down 30%, meaning over 1,200 have obtained places to live.

L.A.'s most recent undertaking is different, though: The city will convert old motels into 500 permanent apartments for veterans who are homeless.

If everything goes according to plan, the 500 units, built with help from Step Up, will be available for veterans to move into by January 2017. Coupled with the 300 units the city already provides to homeless residents, L.A. is on track to create 800 permanent housing units annually.


Image via David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.

Repurposing old living spaces as housing for people who are homeless is an unusual idea but not a new one.

The nonprofit homeless housing agency Step Up is helping to facilitate about 400 of L.A.'s motel conversions, and they've been working on developing housing for people on the streets since 1994.

One of Step Up's other transitional apartment conversions — Step Up on Vine in Hollywood — has 34 housing units, and it's been a raging success. Occupants are provided supportive services and may live there as long as they like.

This is the first Step Up on Vine complex in L.A., before and after. Image from Step Up, used with permission.

Images from Step Up, used with permission.

This new housing for homeless veterans in L.A. will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis — hopefully soon.

Step Up plans to use a combination of L.A.'s homeless services registry and their own outreach and engagement team (which actively canvasses the city looking for those in need) to place residents in the new buildings.

This is all part of the city’s plan to achieve a homeless population of functional zero, which means that the number of people who are homeless entering the city every month should be no greater than their monthly housing placement rate.

In addition to the motels, L.A. also has an ambitious 47-point plan for working with the city's ever-growing homeless population in the next few years.

In addition to creating new housing for people on the streets, L.A. has worked to incentivize landlords to make units available those in need. Some of those incentives include guaranteed rent payments and bonuses for holding open housing for someone coming from the streets, too.

"But you can only incentivize so much," said Ben Winters, housing policy specialist for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. "The next step is to build more housing."


Photo by Pretzelpaws/Wikimedia Commons.

Building housing isn’t cheap, so the city’s annual budget calls for $138 million to be used to address homelessness.

And there already are encouraging signs that the effort will really work. When the state of emergency was announced, there were approximately 4,362 veterans who were homeless in L.A. In May 2016, the L.A. Homeless Services Authority reported that had decreased to 3,071.

Plus, 500 new units coming soon means 500 more veterans will be off the streets in the months ahead. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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