Mega-Clinic Provides Free Healthcare to 1,000 Homeless People

More than 700 Healthcare Professionals Joined Care Harbor on November 15 to Help Those with Limited or No Access to Healthcare

1,000 people experiencing homelessness awaiting patient care.  Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

Care Harbor, a nonprofit, volunteer-based charity, began its 11th annual event at The Reef in Downtown Los Angeles with a day solely dedicated to providing free healthcare services to people experiencing homelessness in the Southern California region.

Dental work for patients from Care Harbor.  Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“The homeless crisis in Los Angeles is everyone’s problem,” said Don Manelli, president of Care Harbor. “That is why Care Harbor is devoting an entire clinic day to the special needs of those experiencing homelessness. There’s a great need to bring the basic healthcare services to those with no homes and poor access to healthcare.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a major sponsor of the event and a leader in the effort to provide housing for the unsheltered population, called homelessness “the moral crisis of our time.”

Eye examinations available on site. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“We don’t just have a housing crisis” the Supervisor said, “we have a healthcare crisis. We have a crisis of untreated addiction and substance abuse, of mental illness, of the trauma and suffering that comes with poverty.”

The lifespan for people who are homeless is cut short by 20 years relative to those who are not, he noted, adding that people experiencing homelessness have a 1 in 59 chance of dying on the streets. Put into perspective, that is double the rate of homicides in our County.

More than 58,000 Angelenos are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. For every 133 people that are housed through County services, 150 more become newly homeless.

Optometry and glasses provided at Care Harbor. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

According to an October 2019 report released by the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the number of homeless deaths doubled from 536 in 2013 to 1,047 in 2018, but the death rate, which accounts for increases in the total number of homeless people, increased by over a third during that same period. The report cites coronary heart, drug/alcohol overdose, liver disease/cirrhosis and hypertensive heart disease among the leading causes of homeless deaths.

La Tina Jackson of the L.A. County Department of Public Health called for compassion for the most vulnerable population among those who are homeless — people struggling with mental illnesses.

Blood pressure taken. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“People with chronic mental illness are only a subset of the homeless population, but without question they are the most vulnerable; what is black and white, however, is the tremendous stigma faced by this population. But psychiatric illness is an illness,” Jackson said.

In 2018, Care Harbor piloted a program for the homeless, working with local missions, nonprofits, clinics and County agencies to provide healthcare services to this population. As a result of the success of the pilot program, this year Care Harbor worked with Los Angeles County departments and local shelters to arrange transportation to and from the clinic for homeless individuals and tailor services for this population.

In addition to providing a full range of integrative, patient-centered healthcare tailored to the needs of the homeless, the clinic will provide an expansive forum for social services and community resources. Services will also include post-clinic engagement and follow-up care, all of which are special challenges for this population.

On November 16 and 17, Care Harbor will open to members of the general public who already have a wristband and have signed up for services.

Care Harbor was founded in July of 2010 as a California-based nonprofit charity, with the vision that free health clinic events could be transformed from episodic to sustainable care.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas welcomes some of the youngest patients at Care Harbor.  Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

Facebook Live Tackles the Topic of Homelessness

Utilizing digital technology to engage people on the important topic of homelessness, Facebook hosted Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik at its Playa Vista headquarters for a candid discussion streamed on Facebook Live.

Thousands of Facebook users tuned in real time about the origins of the crisis, as well as proposed solutions. The Supervisor also encouraged people to join the movement calling for an end to homelessness by going to the Everyone In website.

Governor’s Advisors Push for Urgent Action on Homelessness

At CalMatters and the Los Angeles Times’ recent “A Homelessness and Affordable Housing Town Hall,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg provided an update on the work of the Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, which they co-chair. In the video clip above, fast forward to the 1:28:00 mark.

In a panel moderated by CalMatters reporter Matt Levin and Los Angeles Times reporter Liam Dillon, and broadcast on their Gimme Shelter podcast, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas stressed the need to act with urgency and to develop a comprehensive crisis response to address homelessness statewide. He called for bold action, noting an average of two to three people die in Los Angeles County every day due to causes directly attributable to homelessness. 

Held at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, the town hall was attended by about 150 people and featured a total of four panel discussions that focused what caused the homeless crisis; how the state is responding; how to address land use, cost, legal, regulatory and NIMBY issues and facilitate housing development; and how to support residents being pushed out of their homes.

Homes for Veterans and Families in Florence-Firestone

Breaking ground Firestone Phoenix. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas led the groundbreaking ceremony for a $23-million apartment building in Florence-Firestone that will house 36 formerly homeless people – more than half of them veterans – and seven low-income families. Called Firestone Phoenix, it is slated to open in February 2021, just a few minutes walk from the Florence Blue Line Station.

“With the Firestone Phoenix, we hope to transform the lives of more than 40 households, including veterans who have served our country,” the Supervisor said. “We are on a path to restore dignity and purpose for everyone who calls Los Angeles home. We simply must not stop until we achieve that dream.”

“We are excited about this new project and the continued support of the County of Los Angeles,” said Dora Leong Gallo, president & CEO of the nonprofit developer A Community of Friends, which is building the project and which will later provide case management services for the tenants, with funding from Measure H.

The 33,707-sq. ft. three-story building will include a variety of community spaces to meet tenants’ needs. Amenities will include a community room and kitchen, computer room, laundry room, outdoor lounge, community garden and children’s play area. Of the 44 supportive housing units, 20 are reserved for veterans who are homeless, chronically homeless, or homeless with a disability, and 16 are for formerly homeless households. Of the remaining units, seven are for low-income families and one is a manager’s unit.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has long demonstrated his commitment to Florence-Firestone residents. He has overseen over $100 million in investment capital and social programs for the community, including affordable housing projects, an improved senior services and constituent service center, streetscape improvements, park renovations, art programming, and workforce and economic development opportunities.

Rendering courtesy of A Community of Friends

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.