West Hollywood has been honored with the National Civic League All-America City Award. The award, bestowed yearly on 10 communities, recognizes the work of communities in using civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses, and nonprofit and government leaders.
The All-America City Award was presented at a ceremony concluding the National Civic League’s three-day conference in Denver, Colo. on Sunday. The conference provided municipal thought-leaders with opportunities to connect and share insights with peers, learn from national leaders, and present the stories of their work to a jury of nationally recognized civic leaders.
During the weekend, 20 cities were invited to take part in the All-America City Competition represented by teams comprised of residents, business leaders, nonprofit representatives, and municipal employees to show off what makes their approach to civic engagement stand out. Of these 20 cities, West Hollywood was honored among 10 cities to receive the All-America City Award.
“It’s not a surprise to me that West Hollywood took home an All-America City Award,” said Mayor John D’Amico. “West Hollywood continues to build a strong culture of engagement among residents, staff, and the city council. Our commitment to outreach to everyone including populations historically left out of decision-making and to authentic communication programs means meaningful governing can and does happen. The city recognizes the importance of leveraging civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness, and innovation to successfully address local issues and we will continue to implement new programs and protocols to further strengthen and deepen our commitment to creating a city responsive to the needs of the community.”
An announcement of the award from City Halls states: “The City of West Hollywood has a strong commitment to engaging community members in a myriad of ways and with a range of tools. A key focus of West Hollywood’s efforts has been the inclusion of traditionally marginalized populations in decision-making processes. West Hollywood has multiple boards, commissions, and/or task forces that strive to engage seniors, women, people living with HIV, transgender people, gay and lesbian people, and low-income residents.
“The city also prides itself on its trailblazing communications program, which aims to authentically and creatively engage all residents. This has resulted in dozens of national and local professional communications awards recognizing the distinct approach and unparalleled effectiveness of the city’s Communications Department initiatives.”
In its application West Hollywood highlighted three project histories to show how it leverages civic engagement and innovation to successfully address local issues:
Russian-Speaking Population Outreach
In the era of the beginning of cityhood, many new immigrants from the former Soviet Union settled in the City of West Hollywood and informal efforts for the city to reach out to this community were often unsuccessful. Determined to break through the barrier, the city created the position of a Russian outreach coordinator, and over time, more Russian-speaking staff members were hired by the city and in law enforcement. The city also created a Russian Advisory Board to integrate the community into the city’s decision-making process. The advisory board and Russian-speaking staff members provide opportunities for community members to present their concerns, begin a discussion, hear what is happening in the community, and become involved in the programming of city activities. The city has created multiple programs and events targeted to the community, including Russian Arts and Culture Month, year-round arts events, and tributes and memorials for Russian veterans and Holocaust survivors.
One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival
To complement the nearly 50-year history of Christopher Street West’s LA Pride in West Hollywood programming every June, the City of West Hollywood developed the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, which produces 40 days of mostly free events and art installations throughout the city. The festival runs from Harvey Milk Day on May 22 through June 30 each year, which marks the end of Pride month. One City One Pride is organized by the city’s Arts Division with the participation of the city’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, Transgender Advisory Board, Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, and community partners, and provides the community at large with a series of arts, film, cultural, and social activities that celebrate the creativity and diversity of the West Hollywood/Los Angeles LGBTQ community.
West Hollywood Homeless Initiative
The city’s West Hollywood Homeless Initiative addresses homelessness with a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, collaborative response.
LGBTQ 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, overseen by the city’s Strategic Initiatives Division, works 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 city’s Homeless Initiative have included a survey of the homeless community which provided a better understanding of demographics; crisis intervention training providing L.A. County Sheriff’s Department 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.
The city also has entered into contracts to 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, and a rental assistance program prevents community members from losing housing.
An economic empowerment program provides job training, resume coaching, and case management services to homeless and housing-insecure transgender community members, and, a full-time HIV specialist connects homeless community members living with HIV to medical care and other supportive services. The city also 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.