Unprecedented Housing Construction for the Homeless

Los Angeles County unveiled an interactive map that shows where it has built and where it is building new interim and supportive housing at an unprecedented rate to urgently address the crisis of homelessness. In the County’s Second District,  represented by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, 6,300 interim housing units and about 4,000 supportive housing beds have been built for people experiencing homelessness. Still in the pipeline are 1,200 interim housing units and 4,900 supportive housing beds.

Called the Los Angeles County Homelessness and Housing Map, the data-driven planning tool shows newly constructed projects, as well as sites in the planning and development phases. These are then overlaid with geographic data that tracks the homeless population countywide, based on the latest Homeless Count. This first iteration of the map does not currently show apartment units being rented by people who receive public rental assistance, which account for about half of the County’s overall supportive housing stock.

“This planning tool provides a powerful and transparent road map for how we should be moving forward to address this crisis,” said County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai, who presented the map to the Board of Supervisors. “It offers a unique visual presentation that shows the important efforts now underway but also demonstrates the hard work that lies ahead.”

The map draws on data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s January 2019 Point in Time Homeless Count, which reported nearly 59,000 people experiencing homelessness countywide —more than 44,000 of them unsheltered.

The map makes it possible to view where the homeless population lives, then adds layers that show existing supportive and interim housing, as well as housing that is currently being developed. It visually demonstrates the gaps between where the need is and where projects currently exist or are in the pipeline. Additional data and refinements will be added to the map in the months ahead.

“We need to build more and turn up the ingenuity and innovation as we construct a comprehensive crisis response strategy,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. This map helps us understand the work that remains in terms of prevention, intervention, and regulatory relief. We must work together to address homelessness and what drives it, so that anyone who calls Los Angeles home is able to live a life of dignity, worth and purpose.”

 

 

Athens Vistas Apartments Offers Homes for Seniors


Seventy-three seniors – half of whom used to live on the streets – now have a beautiful, dignified and affordable place to call home at Athens Vistas Apartments. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas cut the ceremonial ribbon during the grand opening of the supportive housing complex for homeless seniors and persons with limited means.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles County Development Authority celebrate the grand opening. Photo by Mayra Vasquez / Los Angeles County

“This is what individual transformation and community transformation can and should look like,” he said.  “We have to  build more projects like this, and quickly, because we have more than 4,000 seniors throughout the county who still need and deserve a place that they too can call home.”

“This is a slice of paradise in South Los Angeles,” said 69-year-old Wendy Brooks, one of Athens Vistas’ new tenants. “Help us continue to build more opportunities like this one.”

“I’m very, very happy I’m not in the streets like I was,” added Richard Vasquez, the last of 73 residents to join the Athens Vistas community. Just six months earlier, he had been sleeping in the park.

Wendy Brooks welcomes Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with open arms to her new Athens Vistas home. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Los Angeles County Development Authority, Los Angeles County Housing Development Corporation, and Veloce Partners, along with FPI Management, Inc., were key to building the project, which features 74 units, including one for the manager.

Athens Vistas has a central outdoor courtyard, container garden and edible landscaping, two community rooms, a laundry room, gym, designated exercise room, computer room, and social services. Amenities include energy efficient appliances, ceiling fans and lighting, dual flush toilets, and access to either a patio or balcony. The senior units all meet the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act standards and include Universal Design standards.

Richard Vasquez shows off his new Athens Vistas home to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Salvation Army is the lead service provider for the project and will provide an onsite Service Coordinator to link residents with essential services based on their individualized needs. They can also help with resumé creation, coordinating employment training, organizing community building activities, securing transportation, and developing educational programs. They can also connect residents to other service providers who can help with case management, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, and other assistance.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, meanwhile, will provide residents with fun and interactive programs and activities to prevent social isolation and physical inactivity.

Supportive Housing Development Breaks Ground

Gramercy Place Apartments Groundbreaking on June 26, 2019. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined officials from the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA), Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, and other partners to celebrate the groundbreaking of Gramercy Place Apartments.

Gramercy Place Apartments will be located in the Arlington Heights neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles. The 64-unit building is designed to appear as six separate buildings with one two-story wing, two three-story wings, and three four-story wings, all connected by an exterior courtyard walkway. The development will reserve 30 units for seniors with limited means, 20 units for seniors experiencing homelessness, and 12 units for households with a mental illness. To accommodate residents, a variety of amenities will be provided: an exercise room; community spaces – a lounge, a community room with a kitchen, and a roof terrace; bicycle parking; access to three laundry room facilities, as well as commercial space and underground parking.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stated, “We will be relentless in deploying a variety of tools to tackle our homeless and housing affordability crisis. But the backbone of our effort continues to be building new, affordable housing with support services – work that can’t happen without committed, strong partners. Partners such as Hollywood Community Housing share the County’s commitment to create quality affordable housing for today, which we can ensure stays affordable tomorrow.”

Gramercy Place Apartments is the product of collaborative work. The LACDA is providing a total of $5,000,000 in construction and permanent financing, which accounts for $2,000,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Funds and $3,000,000 in Mental Health Housing Program Funds through a partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Housing Works will be the lead supportive service provider. Funded primarily through Measure H, onsite supportive services will include intensive case management services, substance use treatment, life skills training, benefits education and advocacy, attendant care, representative payee services, end of life counseling, medication management services, transportation assistance, education with a focus on arts and life enrichment, and support to connect with various community-based services.

City Council President Herb Wesson said, “We are going to solve this housing and homelessness crisis project-by-project, bed-by-bed. Gramercy Place Apartments will bring another 60 much-needed affordable units to the heart of the 10th Council District. We cannot and will not rest until we get our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness off the streets and into stable housing.”

For more information on Gramercy Place Apartments, please call the information line at (866) 247-5973.

CNN: Staggering homeless count stuns LA officials


Reposted from CNN.com.


The stunning increase in homelessness announced in Los Angeles this week — up 16% over last year citywide — was an almost incomprehensible conundrum given the nation’s booming economy and the hundreds of millions of dollars that city, county and state officials have directed toward the problem.

But the homelessness crisis gripping Los Angeles is one that has been many years in the making with no easy fix. It is a problem driven by an array of complex factors, including rising rents, a staggering shortage of affordable housing units, resistance to new shelters and housing developments in suburban neighborhoods, and, above all, the lack of a cohesive safety net for thousands of people struggling with mental health problems, addiction and, in some cases, recent exits from the criminal justice system that have left them with no other options beyond living on the streets.

“It is the height of contradiction that in the midst of great prosperity across the Golden State, we are also seeing unprecedented increases in homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a key proponent of the 2017 county sales tax known as Measure H that is raising about $355 million annually for homelessness services over ten years.

CNN Reporter Maeve Rueston interviews Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at Tiki Apartments. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

“This data is stunning from the perspective that we had hoped that things would be trending differently, but we will not ignore our realities,” Ridley-Thomas said after the numbers were released. “No one can ignore the income insecurity, the financial stress that is being experienced throughout the population. … This is a state that is the wealthiest in the nation, and, at the same time, it is the most impoverished.”

The new homeless count released Tuesday by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority showed nearly 59,000 people living in the streets across Los Angeles County, a 12% increase over the prior year; and 36,300 homeless people within the city limits of LA, a 16% increase over last year’s count.

Playground at Mosaic Gardens in Willowbrook. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

While those figures were shocking to many Americans who view Los Angeles mainly as a city of glittering wealth, they came as less of a surprise to millions of Angelenos.

For several years now, the city’s residents have watched tent encampments spring up far beyond the downtown area known as Skid Row — where LA’s homeless population and services have historically been concentrated — to their neighborhood sidewalks, freeway embankments, city and county parks, along business corridors and into some of the most affluent neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Beyond the well-being of the city’s homeless population, the encampments have raised a broad array of public heath and safety concerns. Los Angeles Fire Department officials determined, for example, that the massive Skirball blaze that burned homes in Bel-Air and torched the hillsides along the 405 freeway in December 2017 was sparked by a cooking fire at a homeless encampment nearby.

In and around Skid Row, scores of business owners who warehouse their goods in that industrial area downtown have pressed the city to do more about the rising number of tent fires. In one of the most frightening developments, some of the fires are being lit by gang members who try to collect rent from tent-dwellers on certain blocks, according to law enforcement officials and homeless people living in tents interviewed by CNN.

 

 

The Gateway at Willowbrook

Ribbon Cutting for the Gateway at Willowbrook, an affordable living development. All photos by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

The Gateway at Willowbrook: Before and After

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas celebrated the grand opening of the Gateway at Willowbrook, an affordable living development with 105 apartments for seniors, including 22 apartments for seniors who had been homeless.

It is the County of Los Angeles’ first mixed-use development featuring apartments built on top of a public library

“The Gateway at Willowbrook marked the first time that Los Angeles County partnered with the private sector to provide not only housing but also a library,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This is the epitome of what high-quality and affordable development and services can and should look like.”

Developed by Thomas Safran & Associates, the development features one and two-bedroom apartments designed to accommodate seniors ages 62 and older. Each apartment features wall-to-wall carpeting, vinyl flooring and a modern kitchen, complete with appliances.

The exterior facade of the new Gateway at Willowbrook.

The property is beautifully landscaped with an outdoor barbecue area and seating. There is also a spacious community room, computer room, fitness center, laundry facilities, and ]secured entry with intercom. Community movie nights, arts and crafts, bingo, monthly birthday parties, and more are provided by the onsite management staff.

As an added bonus, the newly built 8,0000-square foot Willowbrook Los Angeles County Public Library is located on the ground floor of the building. Within walking distance are the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus and the Willowbrook-Rosa Parks Station.

“This project truly serves as a new gateway into the neighborhood of Willowbrook, providing much needed affordable housing – and public gathering space – supporting the entire community,” Andrew Gross, President of Thomas Safran & Associates, said.