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Tiki Aparments Grand Opening

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Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

The squalid motel in the blockbuster movie The Terminator has been transformed into an $11.6-million permanent supportive housing community for homeless adults with special needs, complete with wraparound services and various amenities.

Tiki Apartments in Florence-Firestone now has 35 affordable rental units for homeless adults heavily dependent on medical care. “I am very grateful, said one of the new tenants, who gave his name as Al. “Being here gives me hope that things will get better. My health is my struggle and I am paralyzed. This gives me hope that I can live a long life.”

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Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Facilitated by Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County invested $500,000 of its Homeless Prevention Initiative funds for the project. “I can think of no better use for this property than housing for the homeless,” he said during the grand opening celebration. “There is no more urgent an issue that tugs on our collective conscience than the homeless crisis.”

Tenants at Tiki Apartments will receive supportive services intended to help them attain greater stability, independence and economic security. This includes case management, mental health care, primary and preventive health care, substance abuse treatment, and financial and life skills training provided by the County Department of Heath Services and its nonprofit partner, Western Community Housing.

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Welcoming a Tiki Apartments tenant to his new home. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

“It’s a model that works, and one that must be duplicated,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “While we have much to celebrate today, we need more resources to ensure more of these projects come to fruition.”

Meta Housing Corp. is the co-owner and co-developer of the property, to be managed by John Stewart Co. Amenities include as a courtyard, outdoor fitness area, on-site laundry and gardening plots, all intended to promote wellness, self-sufficiency and community.

“At Meta Housing, our goal is always to provide high quality housing options that also fill a deep need in the local community, and the Tiki Apartments do just that,” Meta Housing president Kasey Burke said. “A blighted, vacant motel has been transformed into 36 permanent supportive units that will continue to serve the growing homeless population throughout LA.”

Meta Housing Senior Project Manager Brian “Ross” Ferrera added, “In addition to providing a safe and stable place for these homeless individuals to live, the Tiki Apartments also incorporate strong supportive services.

“These services promote wellness and self-sufficiency in order to provide residents with the tools to not only get off the streets, but to stay off the streets,” he added. “In all of our apartment communities, we want our residents to ultimately thrive and the recently completed Tiki Apartments is certainly no exception.”

 

Virtual Reality Exploration at the Natural History Museum

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas joined the Natural History Museum in launching its first virtual reality adventure – theBlu: An Underwater Virtual Reality Experience.

With a high-tech VR headset, visitors can explore the ocean without ever getting wet. In this six-minute immersive experience, they can wander around a sunken ship as manta rays and a blue whale swim past. Next, they can interact with colorful anemones at the edge of a coral reef while turtles and swarms of jellyfish glide by. The journey ends with a deep dive into an iridescent abyss, where hidden creatures such as angler fish appear with the use of a virtual flashlight.

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Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“The Museum’s mission is to study and teach the relationship between the whole spectrum of the human species and the natural world, and this experience does that and more,” Board Chair Ridley-Thomas said. “Using virtual reality technology in this exhibit makes this learning experience an immersive and interactive one. It makes learning fun.”

“Engaging and inspiring visitors is what we do – and theBlu is beautiful, powerful storytelling,” said the Museum’s director and president, Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga. “It would not surprise me if the next generation of marine biologists and VR developers are inspired by this exhibit.

“Here’s what it’s like, from someone who has done a lot of SCUBA diving: it’s cool to see all those plants and animals and not be underwater and cold – especially the deep sea chapter, where you couldn’t even dive in real life,” added Dr. Chris Thacker, the Museum’s fish curator. “It’s incredible to see all the animals up close, particularly the whale and the turtle, and interact with jellyfish and see how they respond.”

theblu_screen_007“The experience is scientifically accurate and does a good job of replicating what it’s like underwater, but you’re just standing there, warm and dry,” he added.

The virtual reality studio Wevr created theBlu in consultation with scientists from the museum and film director Jake Rowell (Call of Duty, Final Fantasy). It was among the New Frontiers Selection at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

theBlu will be on exhibit from March 6-April 28. Tickets can be purchased the Museum’s website, NHM.org, at a cost of $8 for members and $10 for non-members. Children must be at least 10 years old to participate, due to safety reasons and ability to follow instructions. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

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theBlu director Jake Rowell, NHM director and president Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, and Board of Supervisors Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

 

 

A Fighting Chance

It’s a knockout opportunity for kids in the Florence-Firestone area. At the Sheriff Department’s Century Station boxing gym, deputies and volunteers offer homework help and guidance — along with tips on throwing that perfect left hook.

The Sheriff’s Department’s Youth Activities League uses a sports-based approach to help kids and teenagers develop self-confidence and discipline. The boxing program in Los Angeles County’s Second District requires participants not only to condition themselves physically and mentally for competition, but also to eat well, live healthy, and keep their grades up. Several of the boxers have gone on to become junior champions.

Step into the ring and watch them show off their moves.

AC Bilbrew Library Reopens

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All photos by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

The Willowbrook community came out in droves to join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in celebrating the grand reopening of A.C. Bilbrew Library after a $5-million renovation.

Located at 150 East El Segundo Boulevard, the library underwent a complete makeover. It now has twice as much seating capacity as before, with newly installed state-of-the-art technology – including laptops that can be borrowed from a vending machine – and recently acquired artwork that have transformed the 1970’s-era structure into a cultural center.

FullSizeRender8“This is not just your everyday library,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during the ceremony, which also commemorated African American History Month. “A.C. Bilbrew Library is more than a simple repository of books. It is a gathering place for the community and a safe haven for children and families, where knowledge, art, culture and technology are all within reach.”

“A.C. Bilbrew Library has long been a community asset. However, the old library had outgrown the needs of the community and required a major renovation,” Library Director Skye Patrick said. “Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recognized these needs and championed to modernize this library.”

Aside from the transformed library, the community is also getting a completely renovated senior center, located just down the street and operated by Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services.

blc_003The 21,843 sq. ft. library, named after a community leader, poet, musician, and radio pioneer, has been updated with seating for nearly 200 people, providing additional space for reading and studying. There are also 18 adult desktop computers, three teen computers, four homework center desktop computers, two early-learning desktop computers and a laptop vending machine with a dozen laptops that can be checked out for use within the library.

There are three self check-out machines, and study tables with USB charging capabilities. In addition, the library features an updated community meeting room with a kitchenette and state-of-the-art audio visual system. There are two group study rooms with audio/visual capabilities and a whiteboard wall, a children’s activity room, and separate areas for teens and younger children.

Throughout the library are 50 paintings and sculptures recently acquired from the Golden State Mutual Arts Collection. The interior courtyard has a civic art piece developed by artist team Greenmeme, who incorporated native plantings and a trellis, as well as seating, to create an outdoor garden and a gathering space for the community.

BCB_7783The AC Bilbrew Library is the home for the African American Resource Center, which carries many precious archives and holds an important role in the preservation of African American culture and history. Some of the materials have long been out of print and are the only remaining copies available in the world. “Improvement has been made to the way the archives are stored so that these resources are preserved for many generations to come,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Built with sustainability in mind, the library is equipped with energy-efficient LED lighting, air conditioning and heating, drought-tolerant landscaping and other water-efficient features, making it the County’s second “net zero” energy facility.

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Jacqueline Waggoner Appointed to LAHSA Board

Enterprise Southland Social 2015 at the Langham, Pasadena, CA.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas appointed Jacqueline Waggoner to the board of the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority (LAHSA). As vice president and Southern California market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., Waggoner has worked with local government, banks and nonprofit developers to create local funds for affordable housing, advocate for low-income families and create communities of opportunity with access to good schools, jobs, transit and health care.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said Waggoner’s wealth of experience will be an asset to LAHSA, the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which coordinates and manages over $132 million annually in federal, state, county and city funds for programs that provide shelter, housing and services to the homeless. LAHSA also leads the Homeless Count, a point-in-time census of the homeless population.

“With Enterprise, Jacqueline Waggoner is already ‘deep in the trenches’ of helping vulnerable populations,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We want to further tap her skill, as well as her compassion, to better serve the 47,000 souls who are homeless on any given night in Los Angeles County.”

Waggoner said the crisis of homelessness requires urgent and long-term solutions. “Homelessness used to only be concentrated in Skid Row, but now it’s dispersed throughout the county. And none of us should feel restful about that. I think that we are a more civil and humane society than to allow our fellow Angelenos to sleep on the streets.”

A Los Angeles native, Waggoner has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in urban planning from UCLA. Her experience in commercial real estate lending spans more than 20 years. Before joining Enterprise, she was vice president for Community Lending with Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles. Currently, she oversees Enterprise’s affordable housing, community development, investment and strategic programs from California’s Central Coast to San Diego.

She also sits on the boards of the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing, a membership organization that supports the production, preservation and management of affordable homes, and on the board of the Los Angeles Business Council, an education and advocacy organization working with businesses and government to promote environmental and economic sustainability.

Waggoner acknowledges the difficulty of taking on the crisis of homelessness but remains determined to put her values into action. “You have to be passionate about this work because we won’t solve this problem overnight,” she said. “I’m devoted to the mission of helping others. I feel like there’s no career, no success, unless you’re doing something to make the world a better place.”