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$400K Up For Grabs In Watt Family Foundation's LA Homelessness Challenge

Watt Cos. President Nadine Watt said it is time for nonprofits and the commercial real estate industry to step up and find a solution to Los Angeles’ homeless problem.

A tent city lines a street above the Interstate 110 freeway in South Los Angeles.

With the backing of the Watt family, which has been building homes and other commercial developments in Los Angeles for 70 years, and partnerships with nonprofits United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Home for Good Funders, the Watt Family Foundation launched the LA Homelessness Challenge that would award two grants of $200K each for two scalable service model proposals that serves the city and county’s homeless population.

“We felt like as private citizens we wanted to give back,” Watt told Bisnow. “We want to do something for the city and the people who are so desperately in need.

Watt said she wanted to reach out to her colleagues in the commercial real estate space.

“I feel like the more energy that surrounds this, the more solutions that could come and the more people will get housed.” 

In the city of Los Angeles, there are approximately 31,500 homeless people, a decrease of 3% from the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Countywide, there are 53,195 homeless, which is 5% less than a year ago.

City and county leaders credited the modest decline in homelessness to more outreach, services and housing placement, the Times reports.

But more still needs to be done, Watt said.

Watt Cos. President Nadine Watt

In its report, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found the county still needs more than 565,000 units of affordable housing for low-income residents. That is an increase of 16,000 from the previous year. 

Since 2000, rent has spiked by 32%, while renters' incomes have decreased by 3%. The cost of living in Los Angeles has also gone up by 20%, the report found.

The LA Homelessness Challenge, which launched in May, is asking for new, innovative ways to help the homeless.

Using the county’s Approved Strategies to Combat Homelessness report, the challenge is asking participants to align their project with one or more of the six strategies. This could include ways to increase affordable homes, provide case management, subsidize housing, increase income and other service measures to prevent homelessness.

A Watt official said the focus of this challenge is not to build more housing but rather servicing and rehabilitating the existing homeless population.

Watt said the foundation is looking for the “most impactful, game-changing solutions to end homelessness.”

The evaluation panel members include members of the nonprofit community and former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti. The top submissions will be judged by Watt President Nadine Watt, Watt CEO Scott Watt and United Way of Greater Los Angeles President Elise Buik. 

The deadline to register is Aug. 21. Applications can be submitted until noon Sept. 5. Finalists will be chosen Oct. 12, and the two winners will be named in November.