2019 All-America City Finalist – West Hollywood, CA

Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:

The City of West Hollywood’s robust civic infrastructure is highlighted by its strong culture of engagement among residents, outreach to populations historically left out in decision-making, and authentic communication.

West Hollywood engages community groups in its city-wide planning process through a mix of public hearings, accessible online tools, and responsive and evolving development requirements. A key focus of West Hollywood has been the inclusion of typically marginalized populations in the decision-making process. West Hollywood has multiple boards, commissions and/or taskforces that strive to intentionally engage seniors, young adults, people living with HIV, transgender individuals and low-income residents. The city also prides itself on its trailblazing communications program which aims to authentically and creatively engage all residents. The city has been honored with dozens of professional communications awards in recent years in recognition of its distinct approach and unparalleled effectiveness.

Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues:

1.) Russian Speaking Population Outreach

In the beginning of its cityhood, many new immigrants from the former Soviet Union settled in West Hollywood and informal efforts to reach out to this community were unsuccessful.

Determined to break through the barrier, the city created the position of a Russian Outreach Coordinator, and overtime, other Russian-speaking staff were hired by the city and police department.

The Russian Advisory Board (RAB) was created to integrate the community into the city’s decision-making process. The RAB offers an opportunity for community members to present their concerns, start dialogue, hear what is happening in the community and become involved in the programming of city activities.

The Russian Advisory Board has created important programs and events targeting the Russian-speaking community:

Russian Cultural Month- a family-friendly month of events and special performances which celebrate Russian-American arts, crafts, music, food, and entertainment.
Annual Awards Ceremony- Awards are given to the Russian-speaking community for Outstanding Community Service, Role Model of the Year, and Achievement in Business.
Year-Round Musical Events- year-round array of events include Russian-American art exhibits, quarterly seminars for new and established businesses, concerts, dance festivals, and author/poet appearances.
Tributes and Memorials for Veterans- two monuments were created in remembrance of Russian and Russian-American veterans and Holocaust survivors.

Since the establishment of the RAB, Russian-speaking residents have become members of other city commissions, advisory boards and task forces. The RAB gives immigrants better access to services such as health care, early childhood education, adult literacy, workforce training, economic development, and business entrepreneurship.

2.) One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival

The LA Pride Parade and Festival have taken place for the past 40 years in what is now the City of West Hollywood. At certain points in its long history, LA Pride has fallen under criticism for being less relevant, too focused on partying and/or commercial interests, and for lacking an educational component to teach people about LGBTQ history.

As such, the city convened a task force, which recommended the event “gradually extend the Pride Event to incorporate a month-long series of arts, film, cultural and social activities that celebrate the creativity and diversity of the West Hollywood/Los Angeles LGBT community.”

The City’s Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC) has made the following modifications and enhancements to One City One Pride:

Grants- are applied for by organizations who wish to present LGBTQ art projects in the month of June.
Arts Coordinator- is now responsible for programming and principal coordination of the event.
Funding- is now provided by the council in the amount of $25,000.
Competition- Artists now compete to design a poster each year. Submissions come from artists from six continents, including submissions from several countries where gay activity is illegal.
Themes- now provide an annual focal point for programming.

To promote inclusiveness and equity, One City One Pride makes grants accessible to both arts organizations and individual artists. Additionally, the Transgender Arts Initiative (TAI) Grant addresses the historically low-representation of this community. Lastly, about 90% of One City One Pride programs are free to attend, making it accessible to anyone.

3.) Homeless Initiative

LGBT youth and adults come to West Hollywood seeking safety and self-determination, but sometimes they lack adequate support networks and end up without housing. In addition, West Hollywood has a significant population of older adults living below the poverty line who are at risk of homelessness.

The West Hollywood Homeless Initiative was created to address these issues. This collaborative effort is led by city staff members, nonprofit social service providers, law enforcement, and Los Angeles County agencies.

Activities of the Homeless Initiative have included:

  • A survey of the homeless community which provided a better understanding of demographics.
  • Crisis Intervention Training provided deputies with tools to deal with mental health and substance abuse cases.
  • Training of officers to address the impacts of homelessness.
  • Social services such as outreach, substance abuse treatment, mental health programming and housing for homeless individuals.
  • Contracts that provide street outreach teams, shelter beds, case management services, education, and employment.
  • Linkages to care and substance recovery services that bring a team together to work with individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
  • A rental assistance program prevents community members from losing their housing.
  • Economic empowerment program provides job training, resume coaching, and case management services to homeless and housing-insecure transgender community members.
  • A full-time HIV specialist connects homeless community members living with HIV to medical care and other supportive services.

The city holds regular collaborative meetings with homeless service providers and HIV and substance abuse service providers to discuss new and continued attention to the barriers faced by individuals who are homeless.

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