Kicking Off the Year With a Cleaner Hollywood

After a week of rain, the sun came out just in time for the monthly Hollywood neighborhood cleanup organized by the Church of Scientology in coordination with The Way to Happiness Foundation and the LAPD.

Monthly Hollywood Village cleanup.

Dozens of volunteers gathered at the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre on Jan. 19, and took off—carrying shovels, rakes, brooms and heavy-duty trash bags—for the 11th consecutive monthly “Hollywood Village” cleanup, made more challenging because of a week of heavy rain that left the neighborhood sodden and bedraggled. But despite the prospect of soggy cardboard, waterlogged food scraps, and discarded and mildewed clothes and bedding, the Southern California sun, clear skies and 78-degree temperature lifted spirits, and everyone pitched in with enthusiasm.

The Hollywood Neighborhood Cleanup takes place (rain or shine) the third Saturday of every month. It is organized by the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International in coordination with The Way to Happiness Foundation and the LAPD.

Volunteers gather at the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International at 5930 Franklin Avenue for coffee and donuts provided by community partners including Kettle Glazed Donuts and The Oaks Gourmet Market. Then it’s off to some of the seediest sections of Hollywood.

Before the morning was over, volunteers filled 40 large bags with trash and disposed of four crack pipes and 44 syringes—items that can prove fatal if discovered by curious neighborhood children.

Each month, the volunteers visit local homeless encampments. Homelessness is a serious and growing problem in Southern California. According to a KCET feature last summer, between 2010 and 2017, homelessness spiked by 42 percent from an estimated 38,700 to 55,000, with an average 32 percent increase in rent driving more and more locals into the streets. But it’s not only financial woes that spawn the homeless phenomenon—many who live on the streets also suffer from drug addiction or have been marginalized by social and personal difficulties. Which is where "The Way to Happiness" enters the equation.

Volunteers hand out copies of this common-sense moral code. “It is full of gems,” says James Richardson who heads up the Celebrity Centre security team and began carrying out Hollywood cleanups several years ago to make the neighborhood safer for parishioners and local residents. “We’ve had security guards sit next to a homeless person for hours simply reading the precepts of the booklet to them,” he says. “Suddenly, one of them will spark something and you see a change in their face. We even had one guy come back to us to thank us for leaving one of the booklets with him. He was planning to kill himself that afternoon but after reading the booklet he saw a way out of the trap he found himself in and he decided to fix it.”

Immensely popular since its first publication in 1981, some 115 million copies of the booklet have been distributed in more than 100 languages in nearly 200 nations.

Volunteers are planning a special event on Feb. 17 to mark the first anniversary of these monthly Hollywood cleanups. Anyone wishing to participate to help make the neighborhood safe and clean is welcome to join in the action.


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