Building Metro’s Future Workforce at Vermont & Manchester

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, behind the podium at center, celebrates with Metro’s Transportation Career Academy Program interns after a press conference announcing the creation of a Transportation School at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard in South LA. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors authorized negotiating with the SEED Foundation to operate a one-of-a-kind charter boarding school focused on preparing youth for careers in the transportation industry in partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Transportation School will be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development envisioned on 4.2 acres at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard in South Los Angeles. The project will also include retail, affordable housing, a workforce training center, and other amenities.

Metro CEO Phillip Washington and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with renderings of the Vermont Manchester project. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the Transportation School will prepare local youth, particularly those within Los Angeles County’s safety net, to join the workforce of the future. It will not only provide a college preparatory education but also wraparound services, particularly for students involved with the County’s Departments of Children and Family Services and Probation, and students who have experienced homelessness.

“SEED has an impressive track record operating several successful public boarding schools,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Their high-quality curricula will prepare students not just for college, but for life.”

L-R: Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Duardo, and Metro Transportation Career Academy Program Student Sumaiya Sabnam. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

Established 20 years ago, the SEED Foundation is the nation’s first and only network of public, college-preparatory boarding schools designed for students who need — and deserve — a 24-hour learning environment to achieve their full potential.

“We are deeply committed to working with the neighborhood and to making sure that this school is a tremendous community asset,” said Anita Landecker, president & CEO of ExED, one of the SEED Foundation’s proposed partners for the Transportation School.

Noelle, an 18-year-old foster youth, told the Supervisors that a boarding school would have been a tremendous benefit to someone like her. Since entering the foster care system at age 11, she has had to attend 18 different schools and stay in 10 foster homes, nine group homes and three shelters. Noelle currently has a three-hour commute between her current group home and school.

L-R: Pastor Anthony Williams, Anita Landecker and Noelle testify before the Board of Supervisors. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

“I never had the option of going to a boarding school. I never had the option of making stable relationships with my teachers and peers at school, because of all the moving,” Noelle told the Board. “When you move a lot, you begin to just shut out people because you know you’re going to leave and you know you won’t be able to keep these connections. It was hard.”

With Measure M expected to generate enough funds to support 778,000 new transportation jobs over the next 40 years, and almost 40 percent of its employees eligible for retirement over the next two and a half years, Metro is sorely in need of well-trained workers. The Transportation School, serving youth from 9th through 12th grade, will be an entry point into Metro’s career Workforce Development Initiative.

Supporters of the Transportation Project. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

Metro CEO Phillip Washington stressed, however, that students will have a wide range of career opportunities upon graduation. “What we’re talking about here is a Transportation School, not just a transit school,” he testified before the Board. “We’re talking about ports and aviation, and getting young people in Los Angeles County ready for careers in the global transportation industry.”

Los Angeles County took possession of the Vermont and Manchester lot in May after a judge approved its use of eminent domain. By then, the lot had been vacant for much of the last 26 years, since sustaining damage in the 1992 Civil Unrest.

Rendering of proposed Vermont Manchester project by Killefer Flammang Architects.

Several members of the community blessed the vision for the Transportation School. Pastor Anthony Williams of the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ said, “We need hope, we need opportunity, we need jobs, and this school is going to uplift the community.”

Robert Rubin, executive director of the Vermont Village Community Development Corporation, said that while he found it “surreal” to finally see activity on a lot that had been vacant for a quarter century, “it’s very refreshing to know that we have a great opportunity to succeed this time around.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Metro CEO Phillip Washington with Metro’s Transportation Career Academy Program interns participating in a “visioning exercise” at the future site of a Transportation School in South LA. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

County’s Multi-Pronged Affordable Housing Strategy Yields 3,300 New Affordable Apartments

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas poses with residents of LINC Housing’s Mosaic Gardens at Willowbrook. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

By putting in a down payment of $182 million, Los Angeles County has leveraged $1.7 billion in public and private funds towards the construction of 3,362 affordable apartments over the last five years, two-thirds of which were reserved for people struggling with homelessness, mental illness and physical disabilities.

According to a report by the Community Development Commission/Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (CDC/HACoLA), every dollar put in by the County over the last five years has been matched sixfold by public and private funders. Encouraged by this success, the County is ramping up its investment in building and preserving affordable apartments.

Tiki Apartments. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

“Since last year, Los Angeles County has tripled its investment in affordable apartments to $90 million, providing desperately needed help to many of our neighbors struggling with homelessness,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Given the magnitude of the crisis, we must continue to scale up our response and use every tool at our disposal, from financial incentives and streamlined entitlements to creative policymaking.”

“As The Bible says, ‘where there is no vision the people perish,’ and I am very proud that the Board of Supervisors has had the vision to make a significant new investment in affordable housing and are beginning to see the results,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, chair of the Board. “Our homeless crisis is fed by our affordable housing crisis, and so the County has embarked on addressing the homeless/affordable housing crisis in many ways. We have not solved the problem yet, but every time we house 1,000 people, that’s 1,000 more people who are stably housed and not on the street or at risk of falling into homelessness. Today’s report reflects visionary and innovative work and we will continue this work until we solve our housing problems.”

Athens Vistas Groundbreaking Ceremony. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

As one of the largest public housing authorities in the country, CDC/HACoLA also helped house 21,000 low-income households through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program; 1,418 special needs households through the Continuum of Care Program, which primarily serves people who are homeless, or struggling with mental health issues and/or physical disabilities; and 1,754 veterans in households through Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers. From program inception to date, through Measure H, the County’s Homeless Incentive Program has helped 850 formerly homeless individuals, families and veterans find housing by providing incentives to landlords.

Architectural model of Skid Row Housing Trust development. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

“Through initiatives both large and small, we are helping to close the 568,000-unit gap in affordable housing and bring people home through preservation and development,” Monique King-Viehland, Executive Director of CDC/HACoLA, shared. “And as a County of our size, we need big initiatives so that people go home.”

Additionally, homeowner programs, administered by the CDC/HACoLA, have assisted 171 homeowners throughout the County and provided more than $41 million in funding to facilitate homeownership countywide, with an emphasis on low- to moderate-income households, in Fiscal Year 2017-18. In the same time frame, the County has provided $4.6 million in preservation services to more than 200 low- to moderate-income households, primarily seniors, through a variety of homeownership improvement strategies.

CDC/HACoLA, in coordination with the County Chief Executive Office, reported on the status of affordable housing preservation and development at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

GETTING EVERYONE IN_A Snapshort of Supportive Housing_June 2018(2)

2018 Homeless Count Declines for the First Time in Four Years

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks during the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count press conference at a construction site where the nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) is building supportive housing funded through Measure H, Proposition HHH, and other resources. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County fell for the first time in four years to 53,195 — a three percent decline —  according to the 2018 Homeless Count.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which conducted the Count, also saw a record number of people placed into housing, as well as double-digit drops in chronic and veteran homelessness.

However, the Count also recorded an increase in the number of people who became homeless for the first time, suggesting that the root causes of homelessness, such as the affordable housing crisis, have continued to worsen.

“A three percent reduction in the Homeless Count means we are on the right track, but this is no time to rest,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “We should use this momentum to accelerate our efforts to address what I consider to be the civic and moral crisis of our time, to scale up our compassion and innovation. These numbers are a call to action to every resident of Los Angeles County to join in the fight to end homelessness. Everyone In!

Rendering of PATH Metro Villas Phase 2, slated for completion in October 2019. PATH Metro Villas Phase 1, located in the same compound, is slated for completion in July 2018.

The Supervisor spoke during a press conference at a construction site where the nonprofit organization, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), is building almost 200 housing units whose supportive services will be funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure H. Slated for completion in October 2019, PATH Metro Villas will also include a 3,000-sq. ft. primary healthcare clinic, a mental health clinic, a Veterans Connections Center, and other facilities, funded with Measure H and the Homeless Initiative, Proposition HHH, and a host of other public and private resources.

“Voters put their trust in us to deliver housing and services for people living on our streets, and today we see that our efforts are yielding results,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the press conference. “There are thousands of people counting on us to keep going, so we are pressing relentlessly forward until every Angeleno has a safe place to sleep at night.”

“For the first time in four years we saw the number of people homeless in LA County decrease,” LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn said. “It’s encouraging, and indicates new resources voters approved are already having an impact. We housed more than 16,500 people — the most our region has ever achieved. As the funds and programs from Measures H and Proposition HHH begin to reach more people and create more housing, we will continue building on this momentum.”

Gloria Johnson

In 2017, 16,519 people moved into homes in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (LA C0C), which refers to Los Angeles County, excluding Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach. That number is a significant increase from 14,214 in 2016 and 10,917 in 2015.

Gloria Johnson, a nurse’s assistant and former foster youth who experienced homelessness for years before securing affordable housing, said she volunteered for the Count because she wanted to give back.

“Getting into housing has allowed me to go back to school and find a career as a housing case manager at HOPICS in South LA, which provides services, support and outreach to homeless people of all ages,” she said. “My mom died last year — homeless. But I am ending that cycle. My kids have a bed to sleep in. I have a home.”

Among the most striking discoveries in the 2018 Count were double-digit drops in chronic and veteran homelessness. The number of people who are chronically homeless, defined as those with a disabling condition who have experienced homelessness for at least a year, fell 16 percent from 17,204 in 2017 to 14,389 in 2018.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless veterans fell 18 percent from 4,792 to 3,910.

The 2018 Count also told a promising story about homeless youth. The overall number of youth did not show a significant change, shifting from 3,233 to 3,306, which is statistically within the margin of error. However, 53 percent of homeless youth in 2018 were sheltered, up from 45 percent in 2017.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with PATH CEO Joel John Roberts.

“We are still in the early stages of implementing our homeless initiatives, but these numbers show that our strategies are the right ones and we are beginning to make progress,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said. “These results should give us the confidence to double down on our efforts. There are still more than 53,000 people on the streets and they should know that help is on the way.”

“Today’s results demonstrate that change is possible if we stay on this road and we aggressively push forward toward solutions together,” added Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Daunting challenges remain in the fight against homelessness, since Los Angeles County has an affordable housing shortage of 565,255 units, partly because rents have been rising faster than incomes. More than a quarter of the homeless who are unsheltered —  9,322 people (LA CoC) — ended up on the streets for the first time in 2017.

The 2018 Count found that homelessness was not driven by new arrivals. Only 10 percent of those surveyed had been in Los Angeles County for a year or less. About 65 percent have been local residents for more than 20 years.

Meanwhile, black people remain overrepresented among the homeless. They account for only 9 percent of the County’s overall population, but represent 35 percent of its homeless population, down from 40 percent the year before.

Other findings of the Count:

Household Types (LA County):

  • Single Adults: 80 percent
  • Families with children under age 18: 14 percent
  • Young Adults ages 18-24, living without a parent or guardian: 6 percent

Gender (LA County):

  • Male: 67 percent
  • Female: 31 percent
  • Transgender: 2 percent

Race and Ethnicity (LA CoC)

  • Hispanic or Latino: 35 percent
  • White: 25 percent
  • Black/African-American: 35 percent
  • Asian: 1 percent
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native: 1 percent
  • Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 1 percent
  • Multi-Racial/Other: 1 percent

Age (LA CoC):

  • 22% increase in seniors 62 and older
  • All other age groups saw a slight decrease

Domestic Violence (LA CoC):

  • 3,081 people (6% percent) reported becoming homeless because they fled domestic/intimate partner violence

Health Conditions (LA County):

  • 15 percent report a substance use disorder
  • 27 percent report a serious mental illness

LAHSA conducted the 2018 Count with the help of more than 8,500 volunteers, who fanned out across 4,000 square miles on January 23-25, 2018  to conduct a point-in-time census of the homeless population.

Robust Support System and Millions in Housing for Veterans

(Left to Right) LA County Veterans’ Advisory Commissioner and Army Veteran Dennis Tucker, Marine Veteran and Formerly Homeless Advocate Wendell Blassingame, LA County Community Development Commission Executive Director Monique King-Viehland, Soldiers Project Executive Director and Marine Veteran Michael McDowell, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center Executive Director and Marine Veteran Tess Banko, Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative Co-Chair and Vietnam War Veteran Tony Hicks, and LA County Department of Mental Health Director Jonathan Sherin. All photos by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kathryn Barger to create a countywide support network that will enable veterans to help fellow veterans, and allocate $20 million to provide housing for veterans experiencing mental health issues and housing challenges in Los Angeles County.

“It is fitting that we are taking action on the Countywide Veteran Peer Access Network on the day after Memorial Day,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We can never repay our brave men and women for their service to our country, but the least we can do is make sure they have the support they need to lead lives of dignity and purpose.”

LA County Community Development Commission Executive Director Monique King-Viehland testifies before the Board of Supervisors.

“This action establishes a network which enables our veterans to help fellow veterans access vital resources, including mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and housing,” Supervisor Barger said. “Meaningful peer-to-peer interaction and engagement, paired with supportive services and housing tailored for veterans’ needs, will result in improved outcomes for those who have served.”

The motion calls for creating the Countywide Veteran Peer Access Network by expanding the number of veteran peers employed by the County, as well as nonprofit organizations contracted by the County to serve veterans. It also incorporates $5 million to immediately facilitate access to existing housing stock through the Countywide Veteran Peer Access Network, and an additional $15 million to create new affordable and permanent supportive housing units for veterans experiencing homelessness.

 Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative Co-Chair and Vietnam War Veteran Tony Hicks and UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center Executive Director and Marine Veteran Tess Banko testify before the Board of Supervisors.

Tess Banko, a Marine Corps veteran whose husband tragically committed suicide while on active duty, testified, “This motion will not only serve to tighten the fabric of community in ways that are vital for veterans like me and their families, aiding in prevention and overall health, but it will also create a portal for direct access to coordinated services that can help those in need quickly and easily access assistance when it is most needed.”

“(The motion) not only touches my heart, but it touches every homeless veteran in Los Angeles County,” said Wendell Blassingame, a former Marine Corps veteran who used to be homeless but is now residing in a supportive housing unit provided by the County.

Last year’s Homeless Count found almost 5,000 homeless veterans countywide on any given night.

Creating a New Generation of Metro Riders and Workers

Rendering of proposed development for the Vermont Manchester site (Killefer Flammang Architects).

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors approved initiatives that would create a new generation of public transit workers and riders, and help homeless individuals staying in buses, trains and stations secure housing and services.

“It is important to ensure that our youth are deriving all of the benefits of Metro’s growing public transit system, whether as passengers or as future members of its workforce,” said Board Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the initiatives.

The Board gave Metro the green light to partner with the County on developing a college-preparatory boarding academy as part of the County-driven project at the intersection of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard in South LA. Other components of the project include 180 units of affordable housing, 50,000 square feet of retail, and various transit amenities.

In his report to the Board, Metro CEO Phil Washington said the school would “specialize in inspiring and training youth to pursue careers in the transportation and infrastructure sectors,” particularly youth in the County’s safety net and others who have been educationally underserved. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “We want to put these students on a path to career fulfillment by building a school with state-of-the-art technology, support services and unparalleled connections with the transportation industry.”

Students boarding Metro at Cal State LA Station

The Board also approved making the Universal College Student Transit Pass (U-Pass) program permanent and available to undergrads currently enrolled in credit or noncredit courses.  Since Metro launched U-Pass as a pilot 21 months ago, based on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the program has seen a 50 percent increase in students signing up for transit passes and $4 million in additional revenue.

“With the U-Pass program, students have access to safe, efficient and affordable transportation, and Metro has a great opportunity to grow ridership,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Metro works with universities and community colleges to encourage sign-ups through the academic registration process. Among those participating in the U-Pass program are Cal Tech, CSULA, CSUN, Compton College, El Camino College, LA City College, LA Trade Tech College, LMU, Mission College, Pasadena City College, Pierce College, Rio Hondo College, and USC (graduate students). UCLA is poised to join the list in July 2018.

A member of Metro’s homeless outreach team offers help to a man near a bus stop.

Another action taken by the Board was to quadruple the number of outreach teams helping homeless individuals aboard Metro’s buses and trains, and in and around its transit stations. It approved $4 million to fund those teams over the next fiscal year.

Under a pilot program launched by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, two outreach teams started operating on the Red Line in May 2017. In their first 10 months of operation, they engaged 1,539 individuals and linked 208 of them to interim housing resources. They also linked 237 individuals to permanent housing resources, and helped 19 to become permanently housed.

Seeing their success, the Board voted to increase the number of outreach teams from two to eight, operating seven days a week on Metro’s rail and bus system, as well as at Union Station. Each outreach team is composed of a nurse, a substance abuse counselor, a mental health clinician, an outreach worker, and a formerly homeless individual.

Metro CEO Phil Washingon and Supervisor and Metro Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas flank members of Metro’s homeless outreach teams.