Supervisors greenlight affordable housing for Willowbrook

A 1.72-acre of land, where four abandoned houses have been the site of blight and a source of nuisance in the Willowbrook community soon will be transformed into a new 55-unit affordable housing complex.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized a conditional use housing permit championed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, which grants A Community of Friends, a non-profit affordable housing developer, the rights to demolish the residences and construct a 55-unit affordable housing complex on Avalon Boulevard in Willowbrook.

[pullquote_right] “This facility will be a significant asset to the Willowbrook community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. [/pullquote_right]Thirty seven of the units will be designated for individuals and their families who are homeless and living with mental illness, 17-units for low-income families, and one unit will house the property manager. The complex also will house amenities and on-site supportive services for daily living such as budgeting and cooking classes, a part-time medical clinic provided by the T.H.E. Clinic, a children’s play area, patio area, a community garden, a computer room, and a community room for tenant movie nights.

“This facility will be a significant asset to the Willowbrook community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This complex has great potential to not only meet the immediate housing needs of its residents but to profoundly transform their lives with the host of on-site amenities and services available to them.”

The housing development is part of a larger development strategy, spearheaded by the Supervisor, to merge public and private investment in the area, and to create a village of housing, retail, and public services within walking distance for the residents of Willowbrook.

Other developments in the area include: a new $7.5-million East Rancho Dominguez Library currently under construction on the corner of East Rose Street and South Atlantic, the Delores McCoy Villa affordable housing project, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health, and the new Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center and the Community Hospital that are currently underway on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Center campus. In total over $500 million in County funds has been invested into the Willowbrook area.

Construction of the $17.9 million project is scheduled to begin in Spring 2013. The project is being funded with monies from the state’s Mental Health Services Act, awarded by the County of Los Angeles, the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program, public sector resources, private investment, and a commercial bank loan.
Once completed, the housing development will meet Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Certification and will include energy efficient appliances, water conservation methods, and solar technology.

A Community of Friends’ mission is to end homelessness by providing quality permanent supportive housing for people with mental illness. To date, the non-profit that was founded 24 years ago has completed 38 affordable apartment buildings for people with special needs.

Board of Supervisors guarantees millions for affordable housing for veterans and other special populations

The dissolution of redevelopment agencies throughout the state has resulted in an alarming retreat from funding commitments for low- and moderate-income housing. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, however, continues to ensure the development of affordable housing—in particular for veterans, homeless people and other special needs populations.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Board took an unchartered pathway to move forward six housing developments for mentally ill and homeless people, and homeless and mentally ill veterans, developmentally disabled people, and seniors living with HIV/AIDS.

On a motion brought by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina, the Board unanimously voted to release $13.5 million of tax increment monies the County received from the City of Industry. The money will go to developments that were in limbo after redevelopment agencies were forced by the state to shut their doors. The Board guaranteed that same amount from the general fund, should state and local oversight entities decide to block transmittal of the City of Industry monies for the projects. The move sets 267 housing units on the road to completion.

The County does not expect to have to use its general fund monies, but the guarantee was essential. It enables developers of the projects to meet a March 22 deadline to apply for state tax credits that will fill funding gaps in their projects.

Dozens of veterans turned out to support the motion and cheered its passage.

Juventino “J.” Gomez, mayor pro tem of El Monte told the Board that as a disabled veteran and father of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is grateful they had a home to return to. Thousands of men and women, however, return from deployments with psychological problems and no where to go, he said. “I just encourage this board to continue to support these men and women—our American soldiers,” Gomez said. One project that will benefit from the Supervisors’ action is an affordable housing development in South Los Angeles operated by the non-profit organization A Community of Friends. The agency will receive $1.5 million to rehabilitate 48 units for people with mental illnesses.

“All members of our community – especially those with mental illnesses – are entitled to high quality and environmentally efficient housing,” said Dora Leong Gallo, chief executive officer of A Community of Friends. “It is the basic right to housing that is most critical in allowing the most sensitive members of our communities to not only rehabilitate, but to thrive”.

“We have an obligation to see these projects through,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We have funds from the City of Industry that were designated for this specific purpose, and today we have put them to their highest and best use.”

In a related matter, the Board also allocated $5.8 million for a new 72-unit housing development; Terracina Apartments on West Imperial Highway in the unincorporated area of Athens.

The loan, which is administered by the Community Development Commission to fund construction of the project, permits AMCAL, the developer of the Terracina Apartments, to go to the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC) to apply for a $8.68 million tax credit to bridge its remaining funding gap for the $24.2 million development.

“Our strong partnership with L.A. County was essential in moving this development forward during these difficult economic times,” said AMCAL President Arjun Nagarkatti. “Our goal is to build attractive, new housing to spark more investment in the neighborhood, and the families will be empowered to improve their lives and create a stronger community.”

Once fully funded, AMCAL can begin construction. The complex will include multi-family dwellings, a social service office, a community room and a recreation area for children to play. AMCAL will collaborate with nonprofit groups LifeSteps and United Friends of the Children, to provide health, mental health, substance abuse, and case management services on-site for residents.

“Despite the dissolution of redevelopment agencies throughout the state, the Board remains steadfast in bringing affordable housing complexes to the County of Los Angeles,” the Supervisor said. “This project is one example of our commitment.”

As part of the loan agreement for construction of the Terracina Apartments, each unit will be affordable to low-income households earning no more than 50% of the median income for the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. In addition, 15 units will be reserved for young adults who have recently transitioned out of the foster care system.

Kobe Bryant and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas join over 10,000 participants mobilized to end homelessness in Los Angeles County

United Way of Greater Los Angeles hosted the fifth Annual HomeWalk to end homelessness, a 5k run and walk commencing in Exposition Park, in downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, the event’s Honorary Chair, kicked off the event that featured approximately 10,000 participants. With over 51,000 homeless men and women in Los Angeles County, nearly one-quarter of which are chronically homeless, United Way and its partners are working to drive community awareness and action as part of its year-round campaign to prevent and end homelessness. Over the past four years, HomeWalk has mobilized 18,000 walkers, raised $1.7 million and moved 9,000 people into permanent housing.

“For the fifth year, thousands of Angelenos presented a united front against homelessness – collectively saying that the current situation in Los Angeles County is unacceptable. It is crucial that our residents tell elected officials that they are outraged and want this issue solved. HomeWalk gives them that platform,” said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “Our communities are suffering, and we know that by mobilizing Angelenos we can continue to raise funds and awareness to create pathways out of poverty, getting the homeless into permanent housing.”

Homeless statistics in Los Angeles County:

  • Over 51,000 homeless people are in Los Angeles County; 18% are veterans
  • 40% of those homeless are women and children
  • Nearly one-quarter of those homeless (24%) are chronically homeless
  • 67% are unsheltered, living on the streets or in cars
  • Almost one third (32%) of homeless people in Los Angeles have a bachelors degree or higher
  • One of the leading reasons for homelessness is the loss of a job; unemployment in the Country is in double digits
  • Over half our households spend over 30% of income on rent, so just one crisis can push a family into homelessness

“Kobe Bryant has helped us reach more residents concerned about fighting homelessness, and his charity has done great work with homeless children. With the support of celebrities like Kobe, our public officials and Los Angeles County residents, we can make a difference,” continued Buik. The event commenced in downtown Los Angeles’ Exposition Park with elected officials and thousands of participants beginning the Walk at Figueroa street. The 5k route led participants through an educational journey displaying sobering scenes that illustrate homelessness and the long journey to permanent housing.

“I am touched to see that so many people are raising money for us,” said Trevor, a homeless man who was at the HomeWalk 2011. “I have been living on the streets for three years and thanks to all of the HomeWalk participants, I believe that someday, I will have a permanent house.”

The county-wide epidemic of homelessness is one of United Way’s core priorities to create pathways out of poverty.  HomeWalk is part of United Way’s pledge to raise the public awareness and fund solutions to end homelessness. For more information please go to

About United Way of Greater Los Angeles

United Way of Greater Los Angeles is committed to creating pathways out of poverty so that everyone who lives in our communities can have a better quality of life. We are focused on providing long-term solutions in the 3 interconnected areas, which are the root causes of poverty.

What is HomeWalk?
HomeWalk is United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ annual 5K Run/Walk to End Homelessness. Each year thousands join together to do their part by fundraising and spreading the word that homelessness is a solvable problem.

Why HomeWalk?
In Los Angeles County 51,000 people are homeless. Over the past 4 years, HomeWalk has mobilized 18,000 walkers, raised $1.7 million and funded organizations that have moved 9,000 people into permanent housing.  All proceeds go directly back to the community, supporting permanent solutions to end homelessness for chronically homeless people, veterans and families.

How Can We End Homelessness?
The number one reason for homelessness is loss of a job. With our region’s unemployment at the highest it’s been in a decade it’s not surprising that we are the homeless capital of the nation and that 40% of the homeless population are women and children.

We can end chronic, veteran and family homelessness by moving people into housing quickly while giving them the necessary services to remain there. Solutions such as permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing have proven highly successful in citied such as New York and Denver. In Los Angeles County the solutions we support have over 85% success at keeping people off the streets for good with a 43% cost savings for tax-payers.

HomeWalk is an opportunity for our community to come together to raise funds and hope for a better future. Join us by participating, volunteering and/or recruiting others. Together we will end homelessness.

(SOURCE United Way of Greater Los Angeles.)

Preparing homeless children for school

CBS Television hosted a back-to-school celebration for the children in residence at Upward Bound House, a community based, non-profit organization that provides housing and services for homeless children and their families.  The celebration took place at Upward Bound House’s Family Shelter facility in Culver City. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, David Snow, and CBS employees distributed more than 60 donated back packs filled with essential school supplies for the upcoming school year.  This is the second year for the backpack drive at Upward Bound House.

“These are indeed difficult times,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We have a jobs crisis.  We have a housing crisis.  Some would say we even have a crisis of hope.  Some would say that, but not me.  Celebrations such as this one are the answer to how we will weather this temporary trial: together.”

“School can be a very difficult place to go when you are homeless,” said David Snow, Executive Director of Upward Bound House. “Like the work we do here at Upward Bound House, CBS Television Distribution and its employees are giving these kids the resources – and inspiration –to succeed in school and beyond.”

[pullquote_left]”Since the Upward Bound House opened in January 2010, it has been a critical component in our efforts to assist families through difficult economic times,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.[/pullquote_left]Invited guests included Culver City Council Members and Pat Prescott of 94.7 The WAVE Morning Show who featured the event in her morning broadcast. Families enjoyed a delicious dinner.  The mission of Upward Bound House is to eliminate homelessness among families with children in Los Angeles by providing housing, supportive services and advocacy. Since 1997, nearly 1,300 individuals – including over 800 children – have graduated from Upward Bound House and are no longer homeless. According to recent data, over 6,000 children are homeless on any given night in Los Angeles. For more information about Upward Bound House, please visit



Innovative Second District Construction will House and Support Homeless Families, Mentally Ill, and Foster Youths

An innovative housing complex in the Second District will soon take on the challenge of providing a supportive home to some of society’s most vulnerable, including youths aging out of foster care, the mentally ill and formerly homeless.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined the Koreatown Youth and Community Center and the Little Tokyo Service Center on June 29 to break ground for the Menlo Family Housing project on Menlo Avenue, near the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.

The 60-unit apartment complex will serve low-income residents, those with mental illnesses, transition aged foster youths and homeless families. On-site services will include case management, counseling, after-school programs and family literacy classes.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted the project is special for its combination of social services and affordable housing in a single location, which he identified early in his term as a top priority. The project, located in one of the hotspots of the 1992 civil unrest, also represents an inspired collaboration among organizations and elected officials with diverse constituencies.

“This project shows what happens when inspiration, cooperation and determination come together,” Ridley-Thomas said.

“Shortly after I was elected in 2008, I convened a transition team of knowledgeable community leaders. Among their key recommendations to me was to pursue novel approaches to combine the overlapping challenges of mental health care, transition-age youths and homelessness. This project makes that vision a reality,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Along with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Congressman Xavier Becerra and Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes were present to celebrate the start of construction.

Also present were Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Director Marvin Southard and Sean Rogan, executive director of the County Community Development Commission/Housing Authority.