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Though the war against homelessness in Los Angeles is by no means won, churches and ministries are playing a major role in changing the face of the City of Angels. County officials last week said the local homeless population, which is one of the largest in the nation, has dropped by 38 percent in the last two years, and the city's leaders aren't taking for granted the efforts of Christian churches and organizations.

"We are igniting a movement and a heart change," said Andy Bales, president of Los Angeles-based ministry Union Rescue Mission. "We are going to do all we can do, but we can't do it alone. We need people to respond and have a heart change."

As city officials announced the recent progress, Bales and more than 600 pastors and civic leaders vowed to continue their efforts in curtailing homelessness. Union Rescue Mission announced a new "You Are the Mission" initiative that aims to end local homelessness within 10 years by activating more non-homeless people to reach out to those who remain unsheltered. Los Angeles County currently makes up 3 percent of the nation's population, yet accounts for a whopping 10 percent of its homelessness.

"At this time when poverty is at an all-time high and homelessness, especially among families, is at an all-time high in Los Angeles, I think it is appropriate time to ignite a movement to end homelessness as we know it in Los Angeles,” said Bales, who also addressed the need for city, county and state legislation to increase the number of shelters. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, approximately 50,000 people remain homeless each night in the county.

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Along with Union Rescue Mission, Bel Air Presbyterian Church has stepped up to the challenge in recent years by getting families within the community to "adopt" a homeless family in their area. According to senior pastor Mark Brewer, it's not a coincidence that there are 8,000 houses of worship in a county where approximately 8,000 families don't have a place to call home each night.

"Until we have a holy discontent throughout Los Angeles County, we will continue to be the capital of homelessness," Bales said. [, 10/28/09;, 10/31/09]

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