Safe Landing Success Stories: Two Families are Homeless No More

Dennisha Banner holds the key to her new apartment. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Center.

Two hardworking single moms and their children are homeless no more, just two months after becoming the first beneficiaries of Safe Landing for Families-Broadway.

Both families had been living in their cars until the State of California, the County and City of Los Angeles, the nonprofit homeless services provider St. Joseph Center, and private sector donors collaborated to provide them with well-appointed trailers at Safe Landing for Families-Broadway. There, they received an array of services to help them get back on their feet and prepare to transition into permanent housing. Two months later, they were able to move into their own apartments.

Both moms remained employed throughout their families’ ordeal with  homelessness. They were determined to maintain a sense of normalcy for their children as well as to quickly regain stability and independence.

“I am incredibly proud of these hardworking moms!” said Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, President & CEO of St. Joseph Center, whose caring staff worked closely with the families. “After being priced out of their apartments, they persevered and didn’t let the pandemic prevent their progress.”

Dennisha Banner, one of the newly housed moms, feels hopeful about her family’s future. She said, “Because of St. Joseph Center, I am over the hardest part of my life and I am able to push further!”

St. Joseph Center President & CEO Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in January to repurpose the trailers to serve as temporary housing for the homeless. The trailers had previously been used by first responders to the Camp Fire in Northern California.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas immediately filed the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors motion to request the trailers, then led the effort to expedite electrical, water and sewage connections for the trailers, as well as other improvements to provide a safe, secure and welcoming environment.

Councilman Curren Price filed the Los Angeles City Council motion to expedite the lease for a City-owned parking lot for the trailers.

By mid-February, Safe Landing for Families-Broadway began serving 10 families in 10 trailers.  Safe Landing for Families-Crenshaw/Expo opened in late February, also with 10 families in 10 trailers.

“Heartfelt congratulations to the two families who have persevered and overcome their circumstances with the help of the tireless St. Joseph Center staff,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas  said. “Two months ago, we opened this site thanks to collaboration with the State, the city and the private sector, and we are already seeing this collective action bear fruit. This is what a Comprehensive Crisis Response looks like.”

“Not even a global pandemic has prevented St. Joseph Center from continuing to providing essential and life-changing services to the most vulnerable in our communities,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added.

Interior of the trailers. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

“The Safe Landing trailer program was designed to be a temporary stop on a family’s path toward gaining independence and a permanent home,” Councilman Price said.  “As families become housed and others come in, this model is a prime example of what we can achieve when the State, County, City and phenomenal partners like St. Joseph Center come together, driven by a common goal. Happy early Mother’s Day to these two single moms who are taking care of business and putting their families first!”

Dennisha has a story that is sadly typical in Los Angeles. About three years ago, a divorce cut her household income in half. She was soon squeezed out of her apartment by constant rent increases, so she and her children — now ages 16, 13, and 8 — moved in with her mother. Her plan was to stay a few months, just long enough to find a new place. Then, she learned the hard way that locating a new apartment in Los Angeles is extraordinarily difficult, especially if you cannot pay three months of rent up front (first and last, plus a security deposit).

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and TV host Jimmy Kimmel, who was among the volunteer during Community Day at Safe Landing for Families-Broadway. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

After her mother’s landlord threatened eviction for having too many people in the unit, Dennisha and her three children moved into her car. For a while, she parked near her mother’s place so they could use the bathroom and kitchen there. During this time, the beach became a refuge for the family, a place where they could relax, have fun, and even do homework without the fear that came with sleeping in their car. A stay in a Safe Parking program in South LA was a first step toward something better.

In February, Dennisha’s family became among the first 10 to move into Safe Landing for Families-Broadway, also called SOLA Open Air: A Safe Landing for Families. By April, Dennisha’s family became one of the first two families to transition into their own apartments.

Besides lauding the two mothers for their determination, Dr. Adams Kellum also praised the hard work of the caseworkers at St. Joseph Center, whose essential staff have continued helping people throughout the pandemic. “They are heroes, and they never stopped doing whatever was needed to serve our clients,” she noted.

St. Joseph Center reaches more than 10,000 individuals annually through a variety of outreach, housing, mental health, and job training programs. More information available at www.stjosephctr.org.

In a display of compassion and community, more than 100 volunteers came together in February to prepare the Safe Landing for Families-Broadway site to be “move-in ready” for the homeless families with children moving in. Among the volunteers and donors was TV host Jimmy Kimmel. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Metro @ Western

Sixteen formerly homeless veterans and 16 low-income families have a new place to call home, as Los Angeles County and City officials celebrated the grand opening of Metro @ Western, an affordable housing development located a short walk from the Western stop on the Metro Expo Line.

Built by Meta Housing Corporation and Western Community Housing, the development features a four-story apartment building with an outdoor lounge areas, a community garden, a community room with a kitchen, computer lab, and other amenities.

The nonprofit LifeSTEPS will provide supportive services for the residents, many of whom used to live on the streets. The services include intensive case management, mental health assessment and counseling, physical health care, substance abuse services, service linkages, medication management, employment and education services, and life skills training.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will also provide additional support to eligible homeless veterans for healthcare assistance.

“These grand openings are occurring at a pace like never before, but I believe we can take it to another level – a Comprehensive Crisis Response,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We are housing 130 people every day, but the shortage of affordable apartments remains dire. We must all be inspired by partners like Meta Housing and Western Community Housing, and act with compassion and urgency to make Los Angeles County a place where all residents have a place to call home.”

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA City Council Member Marqueece Harris-Dawson also attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with several of Metro @ Western’s new tenants.

The LA County Development Authority provided approximately $1.5 million in Affordable Housing Trust Funds for the construction and permanent financing of the development.

“Coming together and joining our partners to celebrate a beautiful development in this deserving community is at the core of that for which we strive,”  LACDA Acting Executive Director Emilio Salas said. “With the ongoing support of community leaders, including the County and City of Los Angeles, we can continue to invest and increase the number of quality affordable housing developments that are desperately needed.”

Over the past five years, over 4,300 affordable housing units —  or 70% of total units funded within LA County — have been reserved for its most vulnerable populations, including veterans experiencing homelessness and families with limited means.

“Metro @ Western is a prime example of how public-private partnerships can deliver housing to the communities that need it most,” Meta Housing President Kasey Burke said. “The County of Los Angeles has proven itself a leader in this endeavor. By partnering with our firm, which has specialized in the development of high-quality affordable housing for nearly three decades, and by collaborating with other like-minded partners and organizations, the County was able to deliver this much-needed, safe and affordable living environment to veterans and citizens in need.”

Community Day at Safe Landing for Families-Crenshaw/Expo

More than 100 volunteers turned out to help homeless families at Safe Landing for Families-Crenshaw/Expo. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Showing civic engagement and compassion for their neighbors, more than 100 volunteers held a Community Day to prepare the trailers at Safe Landing for Families-Crenshaw/Expo to be “move-in ready” for the homeless families with children moving in. Most of the volunteers were residents and business owners from the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This is about the local community taking ownership of this crisis and partnering with the state and local government to come up with meaningful solutions in their own backyard,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. He spearheaded the effort to secure the trailers from Governor Gavin Newsom and make them the centerpiece of a safe, secure and welcoming community where homeless families can receive supportive services until they can transition into affordable apartments.

Volunteers stocking the trailer with supplies. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Volunteers worked all morning to assemble a play set, dog run and patio furniture for each trailer. They also installed landscaping and cleaned and supplied the trailers with household products, such as dishes and bedding. Finally, they made welcome baskets for the families, who currently stay in cars, dilapidated RVs or rented motel rooms in the immediate vicinity.

“Each and every one of us has the power to make a difference like we’re seeing today,” Councilmember Herb Wesson said. “This is not an issue that’s going to be solved by government alone. This is a battle we must come together to win. There’s no other option.”

“At a time when solutions to homelessness are not always as efficient or effective as they need to be, Safe Landing for Families is a breath of fresh air,” Controller Ron Galperin said. “Creating partnerships to put temporary housing on vacant, publicly-owned property is the kind of outside-the-box thinking that I’ve long advocated for to address this crisis. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is setting an example that other elected officials should follow by doing what it takes to get people off the streets today.”

The LA County Department of Public Social Services donated toys to the children moving into the trailers. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Community representative Michael Collins was among the volunteers who turned out to help his homeless neighbors. “The housing of these families represents the idea of collaboration between the Governor’s office, the Supervisor’s office, the City Council office and the community,” he said. “The importance of today will be reflected by the successful integration of these families back into mainstream society. Today, we have given them some of the tools to restart their future.”

“Homelessness in Los Angeles is now a crisis and has become everyone’s problem,” added City National Bank Vice President and Branch Manager Peter Jackson, who also volunteered on Community Day. “Anyone can become homeless, so it is important to come together as a community to support those in need. Today marks a significant step in remedying the problem and, as a leader in the business community, I hope we will continue to support civic efforts like this and support our local leaders like Supervisor Ridley-Thomas who are making a difference.”

Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order to make state-owned travel trailers available to local governments to use as temporary housing. Located on an LA County-owned site – a former Probation Department parking lot – Safe Landing for Families-Crenshaw/Expo is the second community developed around the trailers.

With donated linens, volunteers make one of the three beds in the trailer. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

The nonprofit homeless services provider HOPICS will provide the families with supportive services and help them secure affordable apartments, using funding from LA County’s Measure H and Prop. 63, the Mental Health Services Act.

“The launching of Safe Landing at Crenshaw/Expo is a result of the tenacity of LA County and City’s deep commitment to find meaningful solutions to address homelessness,” HOPICS Director Veronica Lewis said. “The reality of people, including children, sleeping on our LA streets is heart wrenching and one of the worst humanitarian issues of our time. To effectively resolve it, we need Everyone In to lend their support, talents, resources and heart to this effort.  Community Day at Safe Landing-Crenshaw/Expo provides an opportunity for people to get involved through volunteering their time to help make this site a beautiful community.”

To prepare the site, the LA County Chief Executive Office and Public Works expedited the installation of electricity, water and sewage connections in coordination with the LA City Departments of Sanitation, and Water and Power.

A volunteer assembles a playset donated by the California Community Foundation. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Meanwhile, Trammell Crow Co., ConAm Building Co. and Unisource Solutions donated a trailer for HOPICS staff to use as an office at the site. The California Community Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners, Wells Fargo and the LA Business Council donated funds for a play area and other amenities, as well as gardening supplies and bed linens. The LA County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) donated toys for the children.

“DPSS is the heart and soul of Los Angeles County, and we are so happy to donate toys to the children who will make this home,” DPSS Director Antonia Jiménez said. “We provide services to individuals who are experiencing homelessness, hunger, unemployment and a lack of health insurance.  We are here to help provide the services that can support and stabilize families. We applaud Safe Landing’s community and we hope that these toys will bring comfort and smiles to the children and their parents.”

L-R: City National Bank Vice President and Branch Manager Peter Jackson, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA County Department of Public Social Services Director Antonia Jiménez, West Angeles Church Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Avis Ridley-Thomas,  LA City Controller Ron Galperin, HOPICS Director Veronica Lewis and Community Representative Michael Collins inside the trailer.  Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

 

 

10 More Trailers Arrive to House Homeless Families

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Herb Wesson, United Way of Greater LA President and CEO Elise Buik, LA County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella and the HOPICS team led by Director Veronica Lewis celebrate the arrival of 10 more trailers sent by Governor Gavin Newsom to house homeless families in South LA. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Governor Gavin Newsom has sent 10 more trailers to temporarily house homeless families in South Los Angeles, bringing the total to 20.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Herb Wesson were on hand when Caltrans delivered the trailers to Safe Landing for Families-Crenshaw/Expo. LA County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella, United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik, and HOPICS Director Veronica Lewis also welcomed the trailers.

Ten families with children are expected to move into the trailers next week. They currently live in cars and dilapidated RVs or rent motel rooms in the immediate vicinity.

Caltrans drops off trailers in South LA. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas spearheaded the effort to transform the LA County-owned site – a former Probation Department parking lot – into a safe, secure and welcoming place where each family can stay in a trailer and receive supportive services from the nonprofit homeless services provider HOPICS, which will also work to transition them into affordable apartments.

“We are ‘all in’ to bring everyone in. This site – created in just over a month – is an example of how we can address the moral and civic crisis of our time,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “By thinking outside the box and collaborating with our philanthropic and business partners, we now have two Safe Landing sites in South LA so that 20 families no longer have to live on the streets. This is the kind of comprehensive crisis response we need to fight homelessness with the compassion and urgency that our communities deserve.”

“The City of Los Angeles is mobilizing every resource at our disposal to confront the homeless and housing crisis, and I am grateful to Governor Newsom and the County Board of Supervisors for stepping up and delivering solutions,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The new temporary trailers will bring 10 homeless families off the streets — progress that reflects the strength of our local and statewide coalition determined to tackle this challenge head on.”

United Way’s Elise Buik, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mayor Eric Garcetti take a closer look at a trailer. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

“For me, this is more than just policy, it’s personal,” Councilman Wesson said. “I’m proud to stand with my Governor and Supervisor to bring our brothers and sisters inside today. We must do more, and we will not waver until we’ve won this fight. These trailers are a physical representation of what we can do when we work together.”

HOPICS — which stands for Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System — will provide supportive services at the site with funding from LA County’s Measure H and Prop. 63, the Mental Health Services Act.

“The number of families falling into homelessness in South LA is alarming and ever present every day at our Family Solutions Center,” HOPICS Director Lewis said. “As such, HOPICS is proud to partner with Governor Newsom and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas to bring innovation and quick resolutions to our County.”

“One of the most traumatic parts of becoming unstably housed for parents is a sense of losing the ability to control the environment and provide a consistent safe space for their children,” Lewis added. “Safe Landing, along with the other interim housing projects we operate, allow us to restore that for parents who are on their journey to become stably housed.”

To prepare the site, the LA County Chief Executive Office and Public Works expedited the installation of electricity, water and sewage connections in coordination with the LA City Departments of Sanitation, and Water and Power. Meanwhile, the real estate development firm Trammell Crow Co., along with ConAm Building Co. and Unisource Solutions, donated a trailer for HOPICS staff to use as an office at the site. The California Community Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners and the LA Business Council donated funds for a play area and other amenities.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, United Way’s Elise Buik, HOPICS’ Veronica Lewis and Councilmember Herb Wesson inside a trailer. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

On Saturday, many residents along the Crenshaw Corridor, as well as representatives of nearby churches and businesses, will convene a Community Day throughout the morning to beautify the site and prepare the trailers to be move-in ready. Plans include adding landscaping, a play area, a dog run and patio furniture, and equipping each trailer with bedding and other household supplies. A press conference is scheduled at 11 a.m.

This is the second community to be built around the trailers, which Governor Newsom, through an Executive Order, made available to local governments to use as temporary housing.

The first – Safe Landing for Families-Broadway – opened earlier this month, operated by the nonprofit St. Joseph Center to serve 10 formerly homeless families “Here in Los Angeles, we are already seeing the tangible impact of our emergency actions to tackle the homelessness crisis, a testament to what we can accomplish working hand-in-hand with local partners,” Governor Newsom said when he visited the site and met with the families earlier this week.

Caltrans delivers the trailers to Safe Landing for Families-Crenshaw/Expo. Credit: Caltrans District 7

Governor and Supervisor Visit Families at Safe Landing

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Governor Gavin Newsom and St. Joseph Center President and CEO Va Lecia Adams Kellum, Ph.D. get to know one of the formerly homeless families who moved into Safe Landing for Families-Broadway. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Governor Gavin Newsom visited formerly homeless families who are now temporarily housed at Safe Landing for Families-Broadway, in travel trailers that he deployed under an Executive Order.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilmember Curren Price, who led the effort to create Safe Landing for Families-Broadway — a community complete with supportive services provided by the nonprofit St. Joseph Center — welcomed the Governor to South Los Angeles.

“State government is doing more than ever before to combat homelessness. This first wave of trailers to Los Angeles County is part of our state’s broader effort to deploy more resources directly into communities,” Governor Newsom said. “California is treating homelessness like the crisis it is and it’s going to take every level of government stepping up to do their part. I appreciate LA County leaders for providing land and putting these critically needed resources to work.”

“This is what a comprehensive crisis response to homelessness looks like, and we applaud the Governor for setting it in motion,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, co-chair of the Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors. “It took only weeks to transform this unused parking lot into a Safe Landing for Families – and that was because the state and local governments, private sector, and the community were all working urgently hand-in-hand.”

Previously used by first responders to the Camp Fire, the first set of 10 trailers deployed by the Governor to Los Angeles County have been repurposed to temporarily house 10 homeless families with children who had been living on the streets – in cars or dilapidated RV’s – or in rented motel rooms.

County and City agencies expedited the installation of electricity, water and sewage connections at the site. Meanwhile, private sector partners including St. Joseph Center, Trammell Crow Co., ConAm Building Co., Unisource, California Community Foundation, United Way of Greater LA, TV host Jimmy Kimmel and other donors made contributions to make the site safe, secure and welcoming.

On Thursday, a second set of 10 trailers from the Governor will arrive at the Safe Landing for Families-Crenshaw/Exposition site, which will be operated by the nonprofit HOPICS. A Community Day is planned for Saturday, and volunteers are invited to help beautify the site and prepare the trailers to be move-in ready.

St. Joseph Center President and CEO Va Lecia Adams Kellum, Ph.D., Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Governor Gavin Newsom outside one of the trailers converted into temporary housing for homeless families in South LA. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors