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United Way HomeWalk for homeless shuts streets around USC

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant will be honorary chair of Saturday's HomeWalk 5K race and walk to raise funds for the homeless in L.A.
Courtesy United Way
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant will be honorary chair of Saturday's HomeWalk 5K race and walk to raise funds for the homeless in L.A.

The United Way hosts its annual HomeWalk event around Exposition Park in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. The daylong 5K run (and walk) will prompt a cascade of street closures in the area.

Streets around the park began shutting down around 7:15 a.m., continuing through the afternoon. You can see a full map of expected closures below.

About 13,300 people participated according to HomeWalk, beating expectations of 12,000 participants in Saturday's effort to boost awareness and fundraising for homeless programs in the city. The event had raised $1.3 million as of Saturday morning.

United Way Home For Good director Christine Marge said that all funds will be matched by funds from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. That money, Marge said, will go into filling in some of the gaps in funding for homeless outreach initiatives, including paying the costs for those moving off the street. 

"We raise funds for move-in dollars — so the first month's rent, the security deposit, money for furnishings to move into that apartment," Marge said.

Participants will run or walk in a 3.1-mile loop along Exposition and West Adams boulevards and nearby streets. Along the way, they'll pass inspirational messages provided by United Way.

"During the walk, there's also what we call 'an educational journey,'" Marge said, "where [participants] will also learn about the issue of homelessness and, more importantly, what the solutions are and how they can get involved in those solutions."

The symbolism of the walk isn't lost on Marva Lewis. Last year, Lewis staffed one of the booths at the walk as a homeless veteran who'd recently gotten off the streets and into a shelter. This year, she said, will be her first attending as someone who's made the journey back to housing, and as a United Way employee. 

"Before then, I was 'walking,' I would say," Lewis told KPCC. 

Video: Marva Lewis on HomeWalk

Kobe Bryant was scheduled to attend Saturday's events as honorary chair, as he has since 2011, but he ended up canceling due to having the flu. Marge said his efforts have greatly raised the profile and participation at the annual event. 

"We saw a huge spike in participants the first year that Kobe joined us," Marge said. "I believe we nearly doubled the number of people who participated that year."

Bryant was expected to address participants after the race. 

Saturday's HomeWalk starts at 7 a.m. and is free to the public. You can register online at United Way's website

Map: Street closures & times

Map: Saturday's expected street closures around USC

This story has been updated.