LA County Expands Safety Net for the Homeless

Beggar falling asleep on the street

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to widen Los Angeles County’s safety net for the homeless, deploying teams to help particularly vulnerable populations find permanent supportive housing.

“If we are to end homelessness, we must scale up our response to fit the overwhelming need,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

His motion, co-sponsored by Supervisor Hilda Solis, follows the recent release of the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which showed a 12 percent increase in homelessness countywide since 2013.

Under the plan approved Tuesday, the county would create seven multi-disciplinary integrated teams (MITs) of medical and mental health professionals to provide “street- and shelter-based intensive engagement and support” for homeless single adults with severe mental illness who may also have substance abuse issues.

Homeless single adults tend to be frequent users of the county’s public hospital emergency rooms, and often get tangled up in the criminal justice system.

In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis called for identifying funding that could be used to add another team to Skid Row, and to proportionally augment staffing for MITs in South LA, the South Bay and the San Fernando Valley. A report is expected in 60 days.

“It is imperative that resources are targeted to the areas with the greatest geographic burden and need, as demonstrated by the latest homeless count,” Supervisor-Ridley Thomas said.

During the homeless count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and volunteers found 41,174 homeless people in Greater Los Angeles. When added to homeless counts in Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach, Los Angeles County has an estimated 44,359 homeless people on any given night. About two-thirds of homeless persons were “unsheltered” and stayed in places not intended for human habitation, such as vehicles, parks, sidewalks and abandoned buildings.

The “Metro” Los Angeles area accounted for 27.7 percent of homeless single adults countywide, with a concentration in Skid Row.  Next in line were South LA, 16.2 percent; the South Bay, 12.1 percent; and the San Fernando Valley, 11.7 percent.

Homeless Count (1)

 

 

Willowbrook to Get New Library and Senior Housing

Wilmington renderingMore than 100 units of affordable housing for seniors, an 8,000 square foot library, and an employment center will soon replace a blighted lot on the corner of 118th Street and Wilmington Avenue in Willowbrook.

More than $9 million in county funds have been allocated to the project, which will be developed by Thomas Safran and Associates and the Community Development Commission. Since the property is located one block from the new Martin Luther King Medical Campus, 22 units will be reserved for residents with medical needs.

“This development is the first of its kind in Los Angeles County,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who initiated the project. “We have never built senior housing above a county library and it will serve as an educational anchor and gathering place for the community.”

Willowbrook, a farming area settled in the 1800s, derived its name from the willow trees and rambling brook that decorated its landscape. As its population grew, the neighborhood became known for its homes with deep lots and a community of residents determined to protect it from the encroaching development.

This development is part of a broader, $1 billion investment in the area that includes the MLK Medical Campus, redevelopment of the Rosa Parks Metro station, improved streetscapes, lighting, landscaping, a community garden and other community improvements.

The MLK Medical Campus, which includes a new Outpatient Center, a Psychiatric Urgent Care Center and a Center for Public Health, will be inaugurating a brand new hospital in August.

“With the expansion and development of the new MLK Medical Campus, the tightknit community of Willowbrook will have yet another asset,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This is a legacy that will live on for generations to come.”

Bringing Economic Development to the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line

Screen-Shot-2014-10-09-at-10.53.06-AMWith the Crenshaw-LAX rail line projected to serve thousands of commuters by 2019, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has proposed creating affordable housing, commercial and residential developments on county-owned real estate along major public transportation lines.

His motion, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, recommended making better use of a 1.9-acre parcel of land on Exposition Boulevard in Los Angeles at the intersection of the Crenshaw/LAX and Expo Lines, as well as a 40,000-sq. ft. property on Redondo Boulevard in Inglewood which is adjacent to the Crenshaw/LAX line.

“With its prime location adjacent to the Crenshaw/LAX Fairview Heights station, the County should explore opportunities for making the property available for private development that would cater to commuters on the rail line,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The use of county-owned properties will generate additional revenues that could potentially offset the costs of relocation.”

The county’s 40-year-old Exposition Boulevard property, which houses a Probation Department field office is outdated and needs substantial renovation. By relocating the Probation staff to another County building, the Exposition Boulevard property would be available for private developers to build affordable housing, live/work housing, retail stores, restaurants, creative office space and other commercial and residential developments that would cater to the needs of commuters on the Crenshaw/LAX rail line.

This proposal complements another motion set to go before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors this month to develop a 2.1-acre parcel of land at Exposition and Crenshaw Boulevard owned by Metro.

Combined, the two motions represent a significant change in the way the county can use its assets to address economic development and housing needs.  Together, the Los Angeles County and Metro properties bring up to 500,000 square feet of potential new development into the marketplace.

The $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line is funded through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

The 8.5-mile train route would run through the historic Crenshaw Corridor, known as the epicenter of African-American culture in Los Angeles. It is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000 once completed in 2019.

Plans are already in place to build a major retail center with a Target store, a new Kaiser medical facility, and a revitalized Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza next to the rail line.

A Place to Call Home in Koreatown

16211177808_16be5ce4e9_zPainted a vivid red, orange and yellow, the newly opened Casa Yondé affordable housing community in Koreatown is doing more than brightening up the neighborhood – it is a refuge for some of the county’s most vulnerable young people.

Among the tenants is a 21-year-old working student who recently aged out of the foster care system and is learning how to live independently. Gregory declined to reveal his last name but expressed relief over having a place to call home.

“It makes my life better,” he said. “It’s very convenient because it’s close to my school and my job. Since I don’t have the stress I had before, I’m able to focus on my goals.”

With funding from Los Angeles County and public and private sector donors, Casa Yondé opened in January with 52 units for homeless adults; low-income families and individuals; and youths who have aged out of foster care and are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The Casa Yonde apartments replaced an obsolete building with only 26 affordable housing units, some of which were 90 years old. In addition, young people living in the complex have access to services to help them integrate into the community, as well as counseling rooms, community spaces, and a landscaped courtyard.

“I believe that every individual has the right to live in safe, affordable and quality housing,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who noted more than 1,600 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing units have been created in the 2nd District since 2008.  “Through affordable housing and community services, we can change people’s lives and the communities they live in.”

Another 67-unit affordable housing community, LDK Senior Apartments, is under construction in Koreatown, off Crenshaw Boulevard, for seniors at different stages in the aging process. The apartments will come with amenities such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, no-slip surfaces, emergency call systems and recreation areas. It will also house service providers to help residents sign up for affordable healthcare, job skills training, and others.

 “Come spring next year, this development will provide the wrap-around services to help residents thrive,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation built both Casa Yondé and LDK Senior Apartments, with financial and operational assistance from both the private and public sectors, including Los Angeles County.

The Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance is the service provider at Casa Yondé. “These apartments allow tenants to take care of their family and participate actively in the community,” said tenant services coordinator Maya Anderson of KIWA. “Now they can live in an affordable and safe home.”

Home for Good

DJA_0089 By the end of 2015, Los Angeles County will eradicate veteran homelessness—that was the pledge made recently by national and local government officials, non-profit and philanthropic organizations and the local business community.

Home For Good, an initiative by United Way of Greater Los Angeles and The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to end veteran homelessness in 2015, unveiled a detailed Action Plan to meet that goal. The initiative prides itself on an individually based approach to end homelessness. By understanding homeless people’s needs, quickly linking them to permanent housing, job training and mental health help, many veterans have found a new way of life.

DJB_0047
“I am so grateful,” said Felicia Blankenship, a veteran who was homeless for many years before finding permanent housing at the Rosslyn Hotel Apartments in downtown Los Angeles, where the initiative was announced. “I am alive and I am sober and I am so happy to be here.”

Since its launch in 2010, Home For Good partners throughout the region have housed over 12,000 veterans, with a current rate of 438 veterans housed each month. To achieve the goal of eradicating veteran homelessness by the end of the calendar year, the community must house 538 veterans per month.

photo“I welcome my new and fellow Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, in joining me to help solve homelessness in our County,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who in 2010 co-sponsored the motion for Home for Good in Los Angeles County. “This is an esteemed and productive public/private partnership that has made major gains toward ending chronic and veteran homelessness in our County.”

Secretary of U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Robert McDonald, was the keynote speaker at the event, which also included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis.

“If we end veteran homelessness in L.A. County and across the country, imagine what else we can do,” said Robert McDonald, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. “There is no reason why any veteran should be homeless.”

There are 39,500 homeless men and women in Los Angeles County, of which 4,618 are homeless veterans. Los Angeles has seen a 40 percent reduction in veteran homelessness but clearly more work needs to be done.

“Having thousands of people on the street is morally wrong,” said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “Frankly, it is also bad for business.”

With the current partnerships, Home for Good leaders are confident the goal to end veteran homelessness will be met.

“Every region in Los Angeles County is impacted by veteran homelessness, and it will require a strong and collective effort to eradicate the issue and house our homeless veterans still living on the streets,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “I’m confident that with this group effort, renewed focus and expansion of the proven Coordinated Entry System, we will eradicate veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County in 2015.”

For more information, visit Home For Good.