Car show in Alhambra supports documentary about homeless children

Director Neal Tyler (left), Alhambra City Mayor Katherine Lee (middle), Producer Kevin Knight (right). (Priscilla Caballero/UT)

Priscilla Caballero, Community News Reporter

Film director Neal Tyler’s work has appeared on PBS, National Geographic, Animal Planet, A&E, Amazon Prime, and others.

Now, he’s working on a documentary set in Alhambra about homelessness in the city.

The film received support recently from a car show fundraiser organized in November in part by Alhambra Mayor Katherine Lee.

According to a LAHSA homeless count in 2020, there are at least 63,706 people experiencing homelessness in LA County, which is a 13% increase from 2019. The city of Alhambra’s homeless population is estimated at 46 individuals with 32 unsheltered and 14 sheltered, according to LAHSA’s 2020 point-in-time homeless count

The documentary film, “The Forgotten Angels,” is a project managed by Kevin Knight, who has  has over 20 years of experience managing projects for companies such as UCLA Health and Cedars-Sinai. His passion for art and activism has led him to collaborate with organizations such as Five Acres and VDay to help spread awareness on key societal issues.

Together, this dynamic duo is working to capture a group of homeless children living on the dangerous streets of Skid Row as they try to pursue an education. 

“It’s a short film documentary focusing on homeless children and how to overcome the situation through education,” Knight said.

“What we’re really trying to do with this film is just humanize the conversation about homelessness,” Tyler added. “A lot of times we hear about the statistics, but it doesn’t really paint the picture about what’s actually happening.”

Lee, a former teacher, said she understands the special educational needs of children, especially those experiencing homelessness: “I think that this documentary, once it’s made, it’s going to be a really good educational tool for everyone to understand the issues surrounding homeless children and education.”

About 50 car show participants came from all over the San Gabriel Valley to see 15 cars that were on display. Most of the cars were classics — red, green, black, blue, and white — and one was modern: A 2020 BMW i8 sports car.

Juan Ayala, who has lived in Alhambra for over 20 years, said he brought his original black 1964 Volkswagen Beetle to the event.

“I saw the flyer for the car show and decided to come out for a good cause for the homeless children,” Ayala said. “I have lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years so I like to give back to the community.”

Although Alhambra does not exclusively offer services to homeless children in particular, a city representative said the city works closely with nonprofits to identify individuals experiencing homelessness. It will find temporary shelters for them, including vouchers to stay in a motel.

The Alhambra city council and planning commission approved a permanent supportive housing structure with 45 units for low-income individuals, according to Lee. Construction is set to begin in 2022.

Vanessa Sandoval, Alhambra High School’s Homeless and Parent Engagement and Students at Risk counselor, said she believes it is important for the community to help one another, especially the youth and children who aren’t able to fend for themselves. 

“I think it’s the responsibility of any adult no matter if that child is your family or not,” Sandoval said. “I think it kind of goes back to the adults that are supposed to take care of them, but for many different reasons, those adults are going through difficulties or trauma. That could be many things, whether that’s a job loss or losing family members during these pandemic times.” 

More helpful resources for families, children, and students experiencing homelessness can be found on the Alhambra High School website and in “resource packets,” which highlight local organizations that aid and provide temporary or long-term shelter for students or individuals experiencing homelessness.

“We have school community coordinators, we have staff, whether that’s counselors or principals, present at every site, and they are our eyes, our hands, our ears to really reach out and make connections with these youth experiencing homelessness or below the poverty line,” Sandoval said. 

According to Lee, there is a possibility that next year they will continue the car show fundraiser.

“Next year if the city council is willing to take the car show as a fundraiser or as an event for the city, then it will probably be a larger event, and it will probably be located at the city park with more cars and maybe with food vendors, and it will be up to the city council to determine which nonprofits to support,” Lee said. 

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]