Pomona businesses warm up Holt Ave.

As Pomona locals bundle up at home, businesses are teaming up for a holiday warmth drive, “Let’s Warm Holt Ave.,” to provide warm clothes for the houseless in the community this cold holiday season.

Donations will be accepted in the three locations: 3rd Street Graphics in Pomona, Erleene’s Flowers in Pomona and Café Del Sol in San Bernardino. The three businesses are accepting donations in preparation for a cold holiday season with night temperatures reaching lows of 43 degrees Fahrenheit from December to February.

Erleene Connard, a Pomona native, opened Erleene’s Flowers hoping to inspire others to lend a helping hand in “keeping somebody warm.”

Owner of 3rd Street Graphics, Justin Manriquez, experienced homelessness on 3rd Street and Traction Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles. He described living on 3rd Street as the lowest point in his life, so he founded 3rd Street Graphics three years ago as a reminder of where he comes from.

“That’s probably the ultimate goal, to let them know that we care,” said Manriquez, speaking about his motivation for the drive. “I think a lot of the time we turn a blind eye because we are used to seeing this, especially in Southern California, forgetting that these are people with problems like our problems.”

The businesses are requesting beanies, socks, gloves, hand-warmers, undergarments, hygiene products and toiletries. For a no-contact donation, an Amazon wish-list is available by request.

Fourth-year sociology student, Diana Cervantes, has lived in and witnessed the state of homelessness in both areas and is frustrated with stereotypes attached to the houseless population.

“I think there is a stereotype with homelessness like, ’Oh, you did this to yourself’ and they don’t even take into account other circumstances that could have impacted them,” said Cervantes.

Cervantes added that while Pomona has various “hot-spots” where homeless people find temporary rest, San Bernardino is a “hot-spot” itself, with people scattered “on every corner.”

In 2019, Pomona had a homeless count of 702 individuals and San Bernardino a homeless count of 890 individuals.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2020 data, there are 66,436 people in Los Angeles County experiencing homelessness — a 12.7% increase from last year. Hispanic/Latino individuals made up 36.1% of the count, Black 33.7%, White 25.5%, Asian 1.2% and American Indian 1.1%.

“I don’t like to put a timeline on these drives. We will be collecting, as long as people are giving,” Manriquez added.

(Feature image courtesy of Jason Leung)

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