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Inspirational 'Stories,' Home-Walk Events Hope To Shed Awareness On Homeless Crisis

NORTH HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA)  -- The 12th annual Home-Walk is about a week away -- and for some, the event can't happen soon enough.

Home-Walk is a 5K event sponsored by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, CBS2/KCAL9 and the LA Rams, among others.

The event is held to raise money and awareness of the homeless crisis in Los Angeles.

CBS2's Amy Johnson on Thursday spoke to some formerly homeless seniors.

"I was tired of being afraid. I was tired of being ashamed and tired of people telling me I was a failure." says Zondre Johnson.

"I was homeless from the age of 14. I ran away from home. I didn't know the word homeless. I was a runaway -- to join a street gang in Los Angeles," Johnson said.

She spent nearly 40 years homeless -- and incarcerated -- before finally getting her own place.

"When I walked in there and opened that back room window," she says, "and my Lord. The birds started singing. It was like they were welcoming me to that room and that home. And I broke."

Johnson shared her experience at the "Stories from the Frontline," an event started by Marilyn Wells and held in North Hollywood Thursday.

"We hope that people will open their eyes and their hearts when they meet and  hear these stories." said Wells.

In addition to Zondre, five others shared their inspiring stories. (For more information about "Stories From the Frontline," click here.)

"I lost my youngest son when he was 19-years-old, to a bus accident," says Emily Martiniuk. "Prior to that, I had a normal life."

Martiniuk struggled to deal with her grief and lost her business, her marriage and eventually her home.

"I wouldn't ask for help, my foolish pride," she says, "at the very end, that's how I became homeless."

Thursday's event is a lead-up to another important event to end homelessness  -- The United Way of Greater Los Angeles, CBS2/KCAL9 and the LA Rams are teaming up for the 12th annual Home-Walk- a 5K family run/walk. The goal is to raise $1.5 million.

"It's not only just raising funds to end homelessness in LA County, but it's also awareness." says Shari Theresia.

The homeless problem is growing- especially among seniors.

"There are about 52,000 people experiencing homelessness across Los Angeles county,  three-quarters of the people experiencing homelessness just need an apartment they can afford," says Tommy Newman with the United Way.

The groups fighting homelessness want more success stories.

"I'm lending my body, my mind, my soul  to all those that are still suffering out there. I want everybody to be like me -- have a home," says Zondre Johnson.

For more information about Home-Walk (Sat. May 18, Grand Park, Downtown Los Angeles) click here.

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