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Seeking Urgent Solutions for Skid Row

Testifying in Skid Row during a recent meeting of the California Assembly Select Committee on Los Angeles County Homelessness, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called for urgent action to counter the worsening crisis on our streets.

“Homelessness warrants an urgent and comprehensive crisis response,” the Supervisor said. “Under the leadership of Governor Gavin Newsom, the state has already taken unprecedented steps to help people living on the streets. Still, we need broader regulatory relief to speed up affordable housing construction, legislative reform to help the gravely disabled, and budgetary investments to adequately fund desperately needed services.”

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the select committee, hosted the informational hearing at the Weingart Center in Skid Row to explore potential urgent solutions to homelessness.

“The purpose of today’s hearing was to discuss comprehensive solutions to combating California’s homelessness crisis. Obviously what we’ve been doing so far hasn’t been enough, and it’s time that state, city, county and nonprofit leaders work urgently to get people off the streets and into housing” Assemblymember Santiago said. “With 36,000 people suffering from homelessness in the City of L.A. alone, as the Assemblymember representing Downtown L.A., I am ready to pursue all possible solutions that will efficiently solve this crisis.”

“There are far too many people suffering from the homelessness crisis both in LA and statewide,” said Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer, a member of the select committee. “Many of the homeless are formerly incarcerated individuals that are not even given an opportunity to apply for housing. We need bills like my AB 53 to give people a fair chance for housing. Only through collaboration and creative permanent solutions can we solve California’s housing crisis.”

“We must alleviate the plight of homelessness that afflicts the thousands of individuals and families throughout our state by coming together as one body, in the realization that as the 5th largest economy in the world, not one person should be without shelter,” said Assemlymember Mike Gipson, also a member of the select committee. “My conviction to combat homelessness stems from personal experience. My godson of 29 years old is homeless; he has been living on the streets for several years. As I exhaust all remedies to bring him back home, I also work extensively to provide housing to anyone who has fallen out of their family, lost their job, and who is a victim of drug and alcohol abuse. We can solve this.”

Thanksgiving and a Sense of Home

Happy Thanksgiving! As we gather with loved ones for another season of cherished family traditions, I hope we’ll all reflect on our many blessings.

Recently, my staff and I teamed up with A Sense of Home to help Ashley, a homeless former foster youth, and her four children – including twin babies – move into their first-ever apartment.

It was a joy to fill empty spaces with lovingly donated furniture and thoughtfully selected decorations, giving this deserving family a sense of home that they had never experienced before. As she watched her children squeal with delight at the sight of their new room, Ashley was moved to tears.

We all have a chance to make a difference in someone’s life, and my hope is that you will be inspired to join with me in paying it forward.

With hope,

$6M Set Aside for Prospective Florence Library

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors (Board) set aside $5.7 million for a prospective new library in Florence Firestone. They also called for securing additional funding for the project, including from the state of California, and directed Los Angeles County (County) departments to redouble efforts to identify an appropriate location.

“Literacy matters, and I am committed to finding a new and improved long-term library with enhanced features, including modern technology, a robust book collection, as well as welcoming spaces to meet the needs of the Florence Firestone community,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

He added he is collaborating with Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer to seek state funding to build the new library.

County Librarian Skye Patrick told the Board, “The Los Angeles County Public Library and County CEO have been working with the Supervisor to find a home for this library. We have committed to this library and so has the Supervisor.”

Several members of the public testified in support of the motion, including Dominique Medina, President of Florence Firestone Community Leaders. “I would like to thank Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for improving the communities within Florence Firestone,” he said.

Support also came from Edwin Hernandez, Executive Director and CEO of the Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 1,500 local businesses. In a letter to the Board, he wrote, “The business community fully supports [Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion]… and we have no doubt that the funds being requested to secure a permanent library location will be another successful and productive project for the Florence-Firestone Community.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has long demonstrated his commitment to Florence Firestone residents. He has overseen over $106 million in investment capital and social programs for the community, including affordable housing projects, an improved senior center and constituent service center, streetscape upgrades, park renovations, art programming, and workforce and economic development opportunities.

The original Florence Library, previously located at 1610 East Florence Avenue, was first built in 1970. At 5,000 square feet, it was one of the smaller facilities within the County Public Library system and long overdue for renovation or replacement.

In 2016, a proposal was considered to rebuild the Library at its original location along with affordable housing. This, however, proved financially unfeasible. The Board moved forward with the project’s affordable housing component and added a workforce development center. Construction is now under way.

The Board then considered a new location for the Library at the Florence-Firestone Constituent Service Center, only half a mile away but with twice as much available space. However, the plan was withdrawn after some community members expressed concerns.

While the County continues to look for an alternate site, an “Express” Florence Library has been established at nearby Roosevelt Park. In addition, the community has access to four other libraries within approximately two miles from the original location of the Florence Library.

Julian Zamora, the County’s community library manager at the Florence Express Library, said a full-service library with the same staffing levels remains available at the Express location. He added it offers enhanced programs, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs for kids, and painting, yoga, and many more programs for adults in the adjacent community room. Meanwhile, a new partnership with the County’s Parks and Recreation Department has resulted in an after-school program where kids can participate in story time and crafts projects. Additional amenities at the Express location include laptops, Wi-Fi service, printing capabilities, and access to the large community room.

Winter Shelters Open Early

With wintry rainstorms hitting Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors directed the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and County staff to move urgently to open the county’s winter shelter system early to provide refuge for homeless residents.

The shelters, including 13 locations and providing hundreds of beds, are now open to those in need of refuge.

The County is also working with LAHSA and other partners to identify additional sites that could be transformed for use as additional temporary shelters during the upcoming storms.

The LAHSA-administered winter shelter program will permanently open for the season on December 1. With more than 44,000 unsheltered residents—75% of the county’s overall homeless population of nearly 59,000—Supervisors underscored the urgency of acting swiftly in the face of upcoming storms.

“We must do all we can to help people be safe indoors during inclement weather. It is important that we hasten to prevent additional illness and death by expediting the immediate launch of the Winter Shelter program,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the sponsor of the motion to immediately launch the shelters. “We have a crisis on our hands so we must act with urgency. To me, that means rapidly deploying our resources and using our know-how to implement elements of a comprehensive crisis response.”

“I know how crucial, and sometimes life-saving, it can be for people experiencing homelessness to come in from the cold to eat a hot meal and sleep in a warm bed,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “While Winter Shelters are scheduled to open December 1st, this year the cold weather didn’t wait until then. I am pleased that today’s motion included my amendment so that in the future, we could activate Winter Shelters earlier when the weather demands it.”

“This storm is coming and will be dangerous to anyone left sleeping on our streets. We need to get as many of our winter shelters open as possible and we need to explore every available County building, school, or community center that we can open up to keep people safe and warm during these winter storms,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn.

“Today’s action will allow us to expedite the opening of life-saving resources in our communities,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “This is the first step in ensuring that our system is flexible, responsive and operates with a sense of focused urgency.”

A Comprehensive Crisis Response to Homelessness

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss statewide solutions for housing and homelessness during a summit organized by the Los Angeles Business Council (LABC).

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas stressed the need for a comprehensive crisis response that includes short- and long-term strategies that would reduce and prevent homelessness on the streets, connect people to treatment, and rapidly expand and diversify the state’s supply of affordable housing. He said the public is clamoring for urgent action, citing a recent LABC poll reported in the Los Angeles Times.