Grand Opening of Largest Housing Site for Chronically Homeless in LA County

Cutting the ribbon for 160 supportive housing apartments. Photo by David Franco / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino, Meta Housing and other project partners, led a grand opening ceremony inaugurating the largest housing site built for chronically homeless individuals in the County of Los Angeles.

Developed by Meta Housing, the residential buildings will have a combined total of 160 supportive housing apartments. Photo by David Franco / Board of Supervisors

Developed by Meta Housing, the residential buildings will have a combined total of 160 supportive housing apartments. Located in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles, this development includes 108 apartments for chronically homeless patients of the County healthcare system, 28 apartments for chronically homeless veterans, and 22 affordable apartments for low-income residents.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted “dynamic and forward thinking projects such as this one are necessary, they are essential, and they are vital.” Further stating, “Our goal is not to simply do just enough to maintain the status quo—no, that is not it. Our goal is to end homelessness as we know it and I believe that today brings us a step closer to that day.”

“Today marks a new chapter in the Harbor Community as we accelerate our drive to get homeless Angelenos off the streets and into homes,” shared Mayor Garcetti. Also noting, “With these 160 new beds, we are giving our most vulnerable community members the safe housing that everyone in Los Angeles deserves.”

This project was a collaborative effort between LA County, LA City, and a number of private sector partners and service providers including Measure H funded non-profits —taking 21-months from ground breaking for opening to come to fruition.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas meets with a new resident. Photo by David Franco / Board of Supervisors

“The 127th Street Apartments and El Segundo Boulevard Apartments are 100% affordable housing communities serving formerly homeless individuals and veterans as well as low-income families. Meta Housing is proud to sponsor with the City and the County on another important project that has helped move our most vulnerable residents off the streets and into permanent housing with robust supportive services” said Kasey Burke of affordable housing development partner, Meta Housing who was instrumental in their efforts to push this project forward.

“Everyone here is working on the side of right. And I am thankful for so many people who were instrumental in getting this project done.” stated Toni White, Peer Case Manager, from Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS).

Through a well-coordinated and comprehensive outreach effort facilitated by the Department of Mental Health, Department of Health Services’ Housing for Health program, LAHSA and HOPICS, 80 homeless individuals were able to move directly from their encampments and vehicles into their new apartments. Resident Horace Lackey said “This project means a lot for me. On a practical level it means that I’m not homeless anymore and in the larger scheme it represents a step toward to a better life.”

Consistent with the promises of Prop HHH and Measure H, this project exemplifies the importance of combining affordable housing with warp-around onsite support services. In addition to the 160 homes, this site will also offer intensive case management services and specialized mental health services which will be delivered by measure H-funded non-profit, The People Concern. LifeSTEPS will provide all other resident and case management services.

County Celebrates Groundbreaking of Affordable Housing Development for Homeless Young Adults

CDC/HACoLA officials join Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at the groundbreaking of the East Rancho Apartments.  Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Officials from the Community Development Commission/Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (CDC/HACoLA) joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to celebrate the groundbreaking of the East Rancho Apartments. Located in the unincorporated area adjacent to Compton, the development will provide housing for 10 transition aged youth who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.

“Los Angeles County is committed to helping fund and construct affordable housing in efficient and novel ways,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This project will do just that. We will house young people who had been grappling with homeless, and providing them with a range of supportive services to help them achieve their goal of independent living.”

The CDC/HACoLA provided the land for the new construction to developers Special Service for Groups, Inc., and Restore Neighborhoods LA, Inc. The East Rancho Apartments will provide two-stories of stacked duplex housing with an attached parking garage. Each duplex will have five single-room occupancy units, and will include shared bathrooms, kitchen, and a living room. The residences will emphasize a supportive communal lifestyle and provide onsite clinical and supportive services.

Monique King-Viehland, CDC/HACoLA Executive Director, stated, “The young adults that will eventually occupy these units have faced devastating barriers in life. We are proud to help provide the first stepping stone to a successful future by putting a roof over their head, and services and resources at their doorsteps.”

All residents will have access to a full range of case management, mental health, substance use disorder, education, and employment services to assist towards their goal of independent living.

Rent Increase Moratorium in Unincorporated LA County

“The issue of tenant protections is not a policy area where we have consensus amongst the field of scholars studying it. Yet we know that it’s an issue that tugs at the hearts of many – particularly individuals and families who are experiencing housing instability.

“The context of unaffordability across Los Angeles County is unprecedented. And in the face of this housing affordability crisis, which has direct connections to our homeless crisis, intervention is warranted.

“While rent control is often described as a blunt or inelegant tool during times of crisis, it is warranted to prevent displacement and to protect tenants. Unlike Prop 10, the rent increase moratorium considered by the Board today was designed to be temporary. It is our job to create a safety net when needed, and now is one of those times.

“But even with the passage of a rent increase moratorium, our work is not done. We need much better data to understand the level of rental rate increases happening across the County – specifically in the unincorporated areas where the Board has direct jurisdiction – and also the rates of eviction within these areas.

“We also need a better system to proactively monitor tenant-occupied units and ensure that complaints related to uninhabitable conditions are properly addressed. We should give serious consideration to a mandatory conflict resolution or mediation program for landlord/tenant disputes and to consider – as New York City has done, and as the City of LA is doing – mechanisms to provide “Right to Counsel” for those low-income tenants who are being threatened with eviction proceedings and would benefit from legal counsel.

“This is a work in progress, but I am committed to making progress to further housing affordability in our region.”

Magnolia Housing Program Offers Second Chances

All photos by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

A newly opened supportive housing project in the heart of Koreatown offers men exiting the criminal justice system a real chance at turning their lives around.

Far too often, people coming out of jail face an uphill battle finding a job, a place to live, or both. With the Anti-Recidivism Coalition’s (ARC) Magnolia Housing Program, 22 men who recently emerged from the Division of Juvenile Justice or prison now have keys to their new home, as well as an opportunity to receive job training with guaranteed apprenticeships in the building and construction trades.

ARC Founder Scott Budnick and Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas welcome a tenant to the Magnolia Housing Program

“Today, we celebrate the Magnolia Housing Program, a perfect blend of innovation and common sense,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Successful reintegration after a period of incarceration is not easy, but organizations like ARC are helping those who made a mistake, paid their dues and are trying to get back on their feet.”

“We look forward to bright futures for each tenant entering these doors,” he added.

One resident is already enrolled in the Metro Rail Mechanics program at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. Another just joined the plumbers union and is working full time. All of the current residents are working and 85 percent are enrolled in school.

ARC founder and president Scott Budnick said, “Offering stable housing, pathways to employment, mentorship and counseling services instills hope for deserving young men and women and ultimately creates safer and healthier communities.”

Founded in 2013, ARC provides a supportive network and reentry services to formerly incarcerated individuals, and advocates for fair and just policies in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The Magnolia Housing Program is modeled after ARC’s Bromont Housing Program, which saw 76 percent of its participants employed after their second year of residence, and a recidivism rate of only 6 percent.

At Magnolia, 22 men will live in a newly renovated house, with mentorship on-site. Los Angeles Trade Technical College and the LA County Federation of Labor created a first-of-its-kind training program that will help them secure lasting career opportunities. Other members of the collaborative include the LA County Probation Department and the LA/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

“The Magnolia Housing Program is an ‘uncommon common sense’ approach to fighting recidivism,” said grateful resident Steven Parker. “It’s been an awesome experience,” said Emiliano Lopez, another Magnolia resident. “I get to share space with a lot of people who are enthusiastic and want to better their lives.”

In addition to supporting the Magnolia Housing Program, Los Angeles County is committed to doing more to help provide second chances to those who have already paid their debt to society. Chairman Ridley-Thomas, in collaboration with Supervisor Hilda Solis, plans to present a motion July 11 to establish a comprehensive Fair Chance Ordinance. If passed, it will create an outreach campaign and enhance training and curriculum for populations that have been excluded from the workforce, including those with felony convictions.

Venturing into Skid Row for the Homeless Count

Vowing to address what he called the “defining civil rights issue of our time,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas ventured into Skid Row on the final night of the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count to help estimate the number of people living on the streets or in temporary shelters.

“We are faced with a homeless crisis that is the product of decades of structural deficits in affordable housing, employment and community investment,” he said in a press conference at the Los Angeles Mission before canvassing a three-block neighborhood dotted with makeshift tents. “We can’t give up on this fight – we can’t and we won’t.”

During this year’s Count, more than 7,500 volunteers canvassed almost 2,000 census tracts spanning about 95 percent of Los Angeles County over two nights and a day. Conducted by the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), it is the most exhaustive survey of the local homeless population – second only to the US Census in size and scope.

The Count provides an estimate of the number of people staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing, as well as those living in places not meant for human habitation, such as vehicles, parks, sidewalks and abandoned buildings.  The data is used to develop a better understanding of the demographics and needs of the homeless population, and to secure funding that would help them secure permanent housing and support services.

“It’s the human spirit inside of us that says, ‘Let’s help our brothers and sisters out,'” said Supervisor Hilda Solis, who also volunteered for the Count along with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Last year’s Count estimated the homeless population countywide at 41,174 – a 12 percent increase from 2013. Skid Row alone accounts for almost 4,000, and 2,500 of them live within the boundaries of the Second District.

Altogether, one in three homeless persons throughout Los Angeles County can be found in the Second District.

“We must and we will confront this issue head-on if we are to make any inroads,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “I am morally outraged by the statistics – that is why I feel such a sense of urgency.”

He has taken a three-pronged approach to addressing homelessness:

  • Building strong and coordinated crisis response systems that are comprehensive, inclusive and evidence-informed
  • Creating affordable housing with, if necessary, supportive services such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, and job training and placement, in partnership with community-based organizations
  • Increasing access to income by raising wages and spurring economic development that creates jobs easily accessible through public transit

Last summer, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis to fund and create four outreach teams just for Skid Row. Composed of County health professionals, LAHSA outreach workers and formerly homeless persons, the teams try to connect the homeless to County-funded medical, mental health and substance use services and supportive housing.

The County is also funding rapid rehousing subsidies and services for homeless persons who can be connected to employment or other sources of income and become stable after a shorter period of assistance. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ office has also dedicated funds for homeless women on Skid Row, to ensure they are taken off the streets and out of harm’s way as quickly as possible, and into stable housing.

The County is in the midst of preparing a comprehensive plan for addressing the crisis of homelessness, and recently held public hearings to solicit community input.