In March of this year, Shelter Partnership and the greater Los Angeles community were deeply saddened by the sudden, tragic loss of our Executive Director Ruth Schwartz. Ruth will be remembered by everyone who worked with and for her as an activist of deep empathy and unyielding passion who was a tireless competitor in our region’s battle with homelessness.
Ruth co-founded Shelter Partnership in 1985 and served as the organization's sole Executive Director until her death. During that time, she stewarded Shelter Partnership from a start-up in a loaned one-room office space to one of the leading advocates for unsheltered people and consultants on homeless policies in Los Angeles County. Under her direction, Shelter Partnership helped secure billions of dollars in Federal, State, and local funding to address homelessness.
In 1989, she founded the S. Mark Taper Foundation Shelter Resource Bank, our warehouse project in the City of Bell. The warehouse has distributed nearly $300 million worth of nonperishable daily necessities like shoes, clothing, and daily hygiene products to hundreds of agencies directly serving the unsheltered population of greater Los Angeles. During the pandemic, she oversaw securing and distributing large-scale donations of facemasks and hand sanitizer to emergency shelter sites that helped mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the local homeless community. Many homeless service programs across L.A. County have stories of Ruth reaching out to them to make sure they received goods from our warehouse. As one program manager shared, "She'd say, ‘You didn’t get enough. You should be getting more.’" Under Ruth's leadership, our warehouse program has grown into the largest homeless product resource facility in the nation.
In August, we were able to gather at the Skirball Center to celebrate Ruth at a memorial attended by many people touched by her life and work. Speakers shared memories and stories of Ruth's passion, dedication, and leadership in the fight against homelessness. They also expressed what we'll really miss: her laugh, her compliment of "Good work," her presence in the office (with dog), her late-night emails, her constant availability, and many other examples of what made Ruth not only our organization's leader and constant champion, but a great friend. The memorial continues to live on our YouTube page if you’d like to watch.
Ruth Schwartz will have an everlasting impact on Shelter Partnership, Inc.’s mission and employees, our partners in the fight against homelessness, and Los Angeles itself. We miss her.