“When we were growing up, homelessness wasn’t as visible. The neighborhood has changed a lot, and you see encampments more and more. It’s at the point where you can’t ignore the issue.”
— Cat Kim
The community response at the homeless hygiene kit drive on Feb. 20 was so good that the sisters who organized the drive, Janet and Cat Kim, have scheduled another to take place at 7 p.m., April 17 at the Elysian Masonic Lodge, 1900 N. Vermont Ave.
The Feb. 20 drive collected over 1,000 pads/tampons, 678 diapers, 400 toothbrushes, 300 pairs of socks and more. All together, the community came together to assemble more than 300 hygiene kits for students experiencing homelessness.
But who are the Kim sisters? The duo has been making some serious strides since they joined the neighborhood council a of couple years ago. We got the pair on the phone to talk more about their Los Feliz roots.
Janet, the older of the two by four years, sits on four committees: Budget & Finance, Cultural Affairs, Public Health & Safety, and Transportation & Mobility. She also has been one of three board representatives for District B, a position that she will vacate this spring, when she moves to District A. “This is my last hurrah,” she said.
Cat sits on both the Cultural Affairs and Outreach Committees; she also is a District B representative and manages the council’s Facebook, Instagram and Nextdoor.
Both attended New York University. After graduation, Janet worked for the Centers for Disease Control in Colorado while Cat spent some time working in public relations and the fashion industry in New York City. But their family has been in Los Feliz for over 40 years, so the sisters gravitated back to their childhood home, and to the perks of our neighborhood: Griffith Park, the local diners and the pedestrian-friendly areas.
“Ever since high school, I would go to Los Feliz 3 and have dinner with friends, and it was great to just be able to walk around,” Cat recalled.
“For me, it’s the nostalgia,” Janet said. “A lot of the places we grew up going to are still here.”
The sisters have been a welcome addition to the council and the governing board, and in some cases, the board has actually helped them. Janet says the position has helped her come out of her shell.
“I’m very much an introvert and being on neighborhood council really forced me out of my comfort zone. I don’t like attention,” Janet says. “But how I feel about my community was important enough to get over myself.”
She urges others to join as well, noting that any effort can make an impact.
“There’s something for anyone to do, and you can participate as little or as much as you want,” Janet said.
“We just wanted to give back to the community we grew up in,” Cat added.
This is not the first time the Kim sisters have ventured into the intractable world of homelessness in the area. The duo are founding members of the SELAH Homeless Coalition, which connects the homeless in Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Atwater and East Hollywood with services. Having spent most of their lives in Los Feliz, they’ve noticed the increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the neighborhood.
“When we were growing up, homelessness wasn’t as visible,” Cat said. “The neighborhood has changed a lot, and you see encampments more and more. It’s at the point where you can’t ignore the issue.”
The impulse to help the needy was instilled in the girls at a young age and has been a driving force for them.
“My grandmother is Buddhist, so we grew up with a lot of influence from her,” Cat said. “So when you see somebody in need, you can’t just not do anything.”
When Cat and Janet read a recent article from local public radio station KPCC noting that more than 17,000 students in LAUSD are homeless, they couldn’t ignore it.
“I was very angered by it,” Cat said. “We needed to do something.”
And do something they did. After the last drive’s success, the sisters are looking forward to the next one. Join the Kim sisters on April 17 at the next homeless hygiene kit drive, where menstrual hygiene products will be collected for donation to the LAUSD Homeless Education Program. You can find out more about the Homeless Education Program here.