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Community: ‘A Royal Night’ gala benefits programs supporting area’s homeless

Community: ‘A Royal Night’ gala benefits programs supporting area’s homeless
Ascencia board member Karen Swan, from left, with Lee Wochner, past chair of the Community Foundation of the Verdugos; and Ascencia Executive Director Natalie Profant Komuro during a recent friendship reception in Glendale. (Joyce Rudolph / Burbank Leader)

A festive gala pairing sitar music and Indian-fusion dinner created by Wolfgang Puck will generate funds that benefit the homeless in Burbank and surrounding areas. In keeping with its motto, “Lifting People Out of Homelessness.”

Glendale-based Ascencia serves nearly 1,000 men, women and children annually through its Access Center and coordinates services with partner agencies in Burbank, the San Fernando Valley, northeast Los Angeles and West Hollywood. Services that include employment assistance, trauma therapy, addiction recovery, mental-health counseling and housing placement, as well as personal needs, such as laundry, showers and mail delivery.

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Since 2012, Ascencia has conducted an outreach program in partnership with the city of Burbank’s Community Development Department and Burbank nonprofit organizations to help connect with people on the streets so they can transition to jobs and permanent housing.

To cover costs not provided by the government, Ascencia’s board of directors is planning the 12th annual gala called “A Royal Night” at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Globe Theater on Jan. 27.

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Comedian/actor Rizwan Manji will be master of ceremonies.

The evening’s program will include recognition of successful clients, along with two longtime supporters, Shire, a biotechnology company, and founding board member Steve Nakasone.

Tickets are still available. For more information, call (818) 246-7900, Ext. 114, or visit AscenciaCA.org.

Proceeds from this event will go to general operating costs that enable Ascencia to run its programs, such as specific items for clients, auditing costs and accounting, said the organization’s executive director Natalie Profant Komuro.

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“These funds make it possible for us to use government funding to assist homeless people with shelter and to move them to permanent housing and help them stay housed,” she said. “Most government grants do not pay for all the costs associated with running these programs, so support from individuals, foundations and businesses are crucial to our success.”

The outreach team in Burbank has served 34 new clients since July, Komuro said, and continues to make referrals to Burbank Temporary Aid Center and Ascencia in Glendale for case management and shelter services.

“We housed a total of 10 homeless people from Burbank in the last fiscal year,” she said. “They were placed in and around Burbank. More housing placements are pending.”

In Glendale, Ascencia’s Access Center supports more than 100 formerly homeless individuals and families in permanent housing with continuing services, Komuro said.

“These are people with at least one disability, often mental illness, and sometimes addiction issues that we ensure stay housed,” she said. “Ninety percent of the people we place in housing remain housed.”

This is the final gala of its kind, because events like this, while they do raise a lot of money, are very costly to produce and require a lot of staff time, Komuro said.

“We are trying to explore ways that are less costly to raise money and to reach more people,” she said. “If we continue on this route, we’d have to keep raising our ticket prices and that becomes too much for our supporters.”

However, Komuro said she thinks that in-person events are really important.

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“The people who support Ascencia are very social and enjoy coming together, sharing and celebrating what we do,” she said.

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