Ma’Lissa’s Story - L.A. Care’s Commitment to Housing for the Homeless

April 2018

To further support the well-being of our members, L.A. Care is prioritizing efforts to address the social determinants of health— the social, economic and physical conditions under which we are born and live through on a daily basis.   They ultimately influence our risk for disease and how long we live and include factors like having access to healthy food and clean drinking water, as well as having safe parks, good schools and a stable income.

This is why L.A. Care made a $20 million commitment to Brilliant Corners, which secures permanent supportive housing for the homeless in partnership with Los Angeles County’s Housing for Health program. 

We want to share with our provider partners the heartwarming story of Ma'Lissa Simon, an L.A. Care member and one of the first beneficiaries of this much-needed housing program.

Homelessness is a huge problem in L.A. County, and it’s critical that all stakeholders come together to tackle this problem. We know that a person's health and well-being starts with stable housing, so we're committed to working closely with Brilliant Corners and the county Department of Health Services to assist the homeless population.

-- John Baackes
 CEO, L.A. Care

Bullied by schoolmates and siblings about her weight, anger drove Ma'Lissa into gangs, drugs, and even prostitution before the age of 18. She had been in and out of detention from the age of 13, but at 18 she was convicted of robbery and assault and went to prison for two-and-a-half years.

When she got out, transitional programs just didn't work and she ended up on the streets, back on drugs. She says, "When you’re high, you don't care where you live… in a car, under a staircase, on a friend's couch for a few days." 

It wasn't until she was six months pregnant with twins, in the hospital for gestational diabetes, kidney problems and more that things started to change. She says, "When I felt my babies move inside me, I knew I didn't want to go back to that life."

It was in the hospital that she also learned about L.A. County's Housing for Health, a program designed to improve health outcomes by getting people off the streets and into permanent housing.

L.A. Care's commitment is a five-year plan to house 300 people, many of them L.A. Care members. Ma'Lissa was among the first L.A. Care members to qualify for the program, and last month, she moved into an apartment with her three-month-old twins. 

Ma'Lissa says, "It feels good. I have been through so much. I am so grateful. I’m happy. I’m smiling, but mostly, I’m grateful."