A Place to Call Home in Koreatown

16211177808_16be5ce4e9_zPainted a vivid red, orange and yellow, the newly opened Casa Yondé affordable housing community in Koreatown is doing more than brightening up the neighborhood – it is a refuge for some of the county’s most vulnerable young people.

Among the tenants is a 21-year-old working student who recently aged out of the foster care system and is learning how to live independently. Gregory declined to reveal his last name but expressed relief over having a place to call home.

“It makes my life better,” he said. “It’s very convenient because it’s close to my school and my job. Since I don’t have the stress I had before, I’m able to focus on my goals.”

With funding from Los Angeles County and public and private sector donors, Casa Yondé opened in January with 52 units for homeless adults; low-income families and individuals; and youths who have aged out of foster care and are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The Casa Yonde apartments replaced an obsolete building with only 26 affordable housing units, some of which were 90 years old. In addition, young people living in the complex have access to services to help them integrate into the community, as well as counseling rooms, community spaces, and a landscaped courtyard.

“I believe that every individual has the right to live in safe, affordable and quality housing,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who noted more than 1,600 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing units have been created in the 2nd District since 2008.  “Through affordable housing and community services, we can change people’s lives and the communities they live in.”

Another 67-unit affordable housing community, LDK Senior Apartments, is under construction in Koreatown, off Crenshaw Boulevard, for seniors at different stages in the aging process. The apartments will come with amenities such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, no-slip surfaces, emergency call systems and recreation areas. It will also house service providers to help residents sign up for affordable healthcare, job skills training, and others.

 “Come spring next year, this development will provide the wrap-around services to help residents thrive,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation built both Casa Yondé and LDK Senior Apartments, with financial and operational assistance from both the private and public sectors, including Los Angeles County.

The Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance is the service provider at Casa Yondé. “These apartments allow tenants to take care of their family and participate actively in the community,” said tenant services coordinator Maya Anderson of KIWA. “Now they can live in an affordable and safe home.”

Home for Good

DJA_0089 By the end of 2015, Los Angeles County will eradicate veteran homelessness—that was the pledge made recently by national and local government officials, non-profit and philanthropic organizations and the local business community.

Home For Good, an initiative by United Way of Greater Los Angeles and The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to end veteran homelessness in 2015, unveiled a detailed Action Plan to meet that goal. The initiative prides itself on an individually based approach to end homelessness. By understanding homeless people’s needs, quickly linking them to permanent housing, job training and mental health help, many veterans have found a new way of life.

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“I am so grateful,” said Felicia Blankenship, a veteran who was homeless for many years before finding permanent housing at the Rosslyn Hotel Apartments in downtown Los Angeles, where the initiative was announced. “I am alive and I am sober and I am so happy to be here.”

Since its launch in 2010, Home For Good partners throughout the region have housed over 12,000 veterans, with a current rate of 438 veterans housed each month. To achieve the goal of eradicating veteran homelessness by the end of the calendar year, the community must house 538 veterans per month.

photo“I welcome my new and fellow Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, in joining me to help solve homelessness in our County,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who in 2010 co-sponsored the motion for Home for Good in Los Angeles County. “This is an esteemed and productive public/private partnership that has made major gains toward ending chronic and veteran homelessness in our County.”

Secretary of U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Robert McDonald, was the keynote speaker at the event, which also included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis.

“If we end veteran homelessness in L.A. County and across the country, imagine what else we can do,” said Robert McDonald, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. “There is no reason why any veteran should be homeless.”

There are 39,500 homeless men and women in Los Angeles County, of which 4,618 are homeless veterans. Los Angeles has seen a 40 percent reduction in veteran homelessness but clearly more work needs to be done.

“Having thousands of people on the street is morally wrong,” said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “Frankly, it is also bad for business.”

With the current partnerships, Home for Good leaders are confident the goal to end veteran homelessness will be met.

“Every region in Los Angeles County is impacted by veteran homelessness, and it will require a strong and collective effort to eradicate the issue and house our homeless veterans still living on the streets,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “I’m confident that with this group effort, renewed focus and expansion of the proven Coordinated Entry System, we will eradicate veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County in 2015.”

For more information, visit Home For Good.

Metro Board Hopes to Expand Affordable Housing Near Transit Stations

Aff Housing

Knowing that affordable housing is one of the most urgent needs in Los Angeles County, the Metro Board of Directors moved forward with an initiative to partner with local communities to build more affordable housing near transit stations.

The plan, recently approved by the board, and authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Director Mike Bonin and Director Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, includes taking an inventory of current and future affordable housing joint development opportunities resulting from the Gold Line and Expo Extensions and the Crenshaw/LAX, Regional Connector, and Purple Line Extension Projects.

To date, nearly 550 units, or 25 percent of all units, developed through MTA’s Joint Development Program are affordable units. Last year, MTA joined with the California Community Foundation and the California Endowment to study the status of affordable housing financing resources in Los Angeles County and the role that other major transit agencies nationwide have played in affordable housing.

“Providing affordable housing to low income residents is one of my top priorities,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Decent, stable housing is one of the most essential elements for any human being to thrive. These developments are conveniently located and allow for easy access to transit in a low cost and environmentally friendly way.”

In addition, the motion seeks to promote co-investment along transit corridors with cities, such as using municipal funds for affordable housing, establishing a policy that 30 percent of all residential units developed on MTA-owned property be affordable housing and establishing a TAP purchase program for future commuters and affordable housing tenants.

Star Housing Apartments Offers New Life on Skid Row

Jude Burns stood in awe among the hundreds of people who turned out recently to celebrate the opening of the Star Apartments, a 100 unit supportive housing site for the homeless. Once homeless, bereft after the death of his only son and severely disabled, Burns got a new lease on life when he was given a place to live at the Star Apartments.  Finding a home and stability gave him the will to live.

“It’s wonderful.  Everything is here- the kitchen, the patio, the counselors. I have a new refrigerator and bed.   I’ve been talking to a therapist here to help me with the loss of my son,” Burns said.  “Without this place I don’t know where I would be.  The people here are family.  We all came from different walks of life, have different stories and just fell on hard times.”

At the celebration, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office invested $400,000 into the project, applauded the innovative and collaborative partnerships between private and public organizations to create Star Apartments, who frequently use emergency healthcare services such as hospitals and urgent carecenters.

“Everyone deserves to live in housing that it safe and affordable,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.  “Residents here at Star not only have a safe place to call home but they are also able to receive medical, social and recreational services on site.”

Located on 6th Street and Maple Avenue, along the border of Skid Row, the building is owned by the Skid Row Housing Trust and houses a Department of Health Services primary care clinic on the ground level that specializes in providing integrated health care services to homeless people and Star residents and the department’s Housing for Health offices with residential units above.  Philanthropic and financial organizations also funded the Star Apartments, the first supportive housing project in Los Angeles with 100 percent of its residents referred by the Department of Health Services.

Designed by notable architect Michael Maltzan, the six floor, 98,000- square-foot- LEED platinum certified building is made of prefabricated residences that were placed on top of a concrete superstructure. Formerly an elevated parking garage, the building includes track, a garden patio community kitchen, community garden and lounge for the tenants.

Robert Newman, Skid Row Housing Trust property supervisor of Star apartments hopes that Star will be a life changing experience for all its tenants.

“All of us have bumps in the road,” Newman said. “We want people to have a chance to get back on their feet and become productive citizens.”

Affordable Homes in Jefferson Park Now Open

Reginald Drummer was homeless, HIV positive and living on Skid Row for four years. But finally, he found the break he needed: Mercy Housing. The nonprofit had just opened the Jefferson Park Terrace apartments on Western Avenue and so he applied for a one-bedroom unit. Four months later, Drummer is working full time as a hairstylist in Beverly Hills, his HIV-related health issues are under control and his life is no longer on a downward spiral.

Jefferson Park Terrace Apartments Dedication EventI just needed a safe, clean place to stay and rest my head,” said Drummer. “Taking a shower, cooking a meal, feeling safe…all that stuff matters. I am so grateful every day,” Drummer said to a crowd of residents and participants in a recent ribbon cutting ceremony.

The 60 permanent affordable housing units are yet another example of public, private and non-profit entities coming together to build decent homes for Los Angeles residents.

Jefferson Park Terrace Apartments Dedication Event

“Every individual has the right to live in safe, affordable and quality housing,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who secured a $3.1-million investment by the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission in the project. “It is through this combination of affordable and sustainable housing, outdoor space and community services – that we really create effective and quality community development.”

Jefferson Park Terrace offers one- to four-bedroom apartments for low income families on the corner of South Western Ave and West Jefferson Boulevard. Six units are allocated for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Residents can share outdoor community picnic, barbeque and playground areas, a computer center and meeting room. In addition, there is an on-site resident services coordinator who helps with case management, civic engagement, health and educational services as well as employment training.  In a twist tying the past to the present, the building was built with today’s highest environmental standards (certified LEED Gold) but is also designed in the Art Deco “Streamline Moderne” style to work seamlessly into the Craftsman-style neighborhood.

The project includes the rehabilitation of the original Fatburger which was established in 1947 by Ms. Lovie Yancey, known for mentoring musicians and entertainers such as Redd Foxx and Ray Charles, located adjacent to the site. The stand has been relocated to Western Avenue and 31st Street, and restored to its 1952 appearance.

Larita Thomas, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment, said she feels secure knowing that someone in the building is looking out for her. She lost her home last year and so now she regularly visits with the resident services coordinator to make sure she is on track.

“The services are great here because they work with you,” she said. “I know that what happened to me before won’t happen to me again here. I love it here.”

Here is a link to another new affordable housing development: http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/index.php/terracina-apartments/