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Keeping Leimert Park and Surrounding Communities Safe and Thriving

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas held a “Keep Leimert Park Safe and Thriving” event to provide COVID-19 mobile testing and 20,000 surgical masks for residents of Leimert Park and the nearby Crenshaw District, Hyde Park and Jefferson Park, which have collectively seen about 1,800 COVID-19 infections and about 75 deaths during the pandemic.

The Supervisor partneried with local nonprofit organizations and businesses to distribute free masks during the event, which will be held at the center of African American culture in Los Angeles

“Leimert Park enriches the cultural fabric of Los Angeles County and, with COVID-19 continuing to exact a particularly heavy toll on African Americans, we must not become complacent in our efforts to protect those who live and work in this historic community, which is a future stop on Metro’s Crenshaw LAX Line,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“We stand with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas to ensure that the residents of Leimert Park and South LA in general have the appropriate resources to stop the spread of COVID-19. He has been front and center from day one to curb the tide of this dreadful pandemic,” added Robert Sausedo, President and CEO of Community Build, which is dedicated to the revitalization of South Los Angeles communities through investment in youth and commercial economic development.

“As a longtime resident of the Crenshaw Community, I would like to thank Supervisor Ridley Thomas and our many local partners for their efforts to Keep Leimert Park Safe and Thriving,” said Manal J. Aboelata, MPH, Deputy Executive Director of the Prevention Institute, a nonprofit whose mission is to build prevention and health equity into key policies and actions at the federal, state, local, and organizational level to ensure that the places where all people live, work, play and learn foster health, safety and wellbeing. “Having access to free masks and testing during COVID-19 and the flu season is critical so that all of us can more safely navigate our neighborhoods, support local businesses, and keep our families healthy,” she added.

Over the last several months, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has been working with Operation USA (OpUSA), Servicon and Moldex to distribute 150,000 masks throughout LA County’s Second District. The masks have been distributed to thousands of local residents, as well as essential workers such as medical staff, firefighters, homeless services providers, grocery store workers, public defenders and skilled nursing home staff.

“We are so pleased to join Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and community partners in distributing masks to our undeserved neighbors and those most in need,” said Servicon Chairman Michael Mahdesian, who also chairs OpUSA.

“We are delighted that LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has focused on protecting the public from the spread of COVID-19 by distributing masks to vulnerable and underserved communities,” added Richard Walden, President and CEO of OpUSA. “We rely on partners who implement sound public health approaches to extend our reach into communities where help — both in kind material aid and cash grants — is most needed, and so we’re grateful to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Servicon Systems for their commitment to distributing supplies across Los Angeles.”

Breaking Ground on Vermont Manchester to Build the SEED School of Los Angeles

Joined by cheering community members and other stakeholders, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and LA Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington broke ground on the Vermont Manchester Transit Priority Project, which will dramatically transform a dirt lot the size of two city blocks that has been blighted for almost 30 years.

After acquiring the property through eminent domain in 2018, LA County, Metro, and their partners are kicking off the first phase of the development: SEED School of Los Angeles County (SEED LA), the state’s first public boarding high school. The second phase will include building 180 affordable apartments, a Metro Job and Innovation Center, and community-serving retail stores.

SEED LA will focus on serving some of the most at-risk students from South LA and elsewhere in LA County, to prepare them for college and beyond. The 147,000-sq. ft. campus will include 170 dorm rooms, 20 staff apartments, 20 classrooms, an art studio, science labs, a maker space lab, administration space, conference rooms, a gymnasium, a dining hall, outdoor recreation space, courtyards and a rooftop garden.

The inaugural class of SEED LA students will arrive in August 2022.

“This community has waited far too long for meaningful change,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “But real change is finally here, with SEED LA to be followed by new homes, shops, a transit hub and job training opportunities. An empty lot that once represented chronic disinvestment is about to be transformed into a landmark of educational opportunity, economic development, and hope.”

“Our region’s transit system is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation — presenting an immense opportunity for Angelenos to take part in building a more connected, more sustainable, more prosperous future,” said LA Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “With Measure M, the Los Angeles area will see hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the decades ahead, and the SEED school will connect students to these possibilities and place them on a path to successful, long-lasting careers in the transportation industry.”

“A first-class education is invaluable and puts young people on a path to successful futures,” said Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “This SEED school will ensure students that will benefit from a 24-hour learning environment have access to it without needing to leave the South LA community.”

SEED LA’s five-day-a-week, 120-hour public boarding school model is built on giving students the “Gift of Time” to focus on their education in a stable, safe environment with a host of wrap-around support services. The SEED Foundation’s three boarding school campuses on the east coast graduate students who enroll in college at a rate of 94 percent and go on to complete college at nearly 4 times the national rate for comparable low-income, first-generation students.

Through a unique partnership with LA Metro and LA County, and with the generous support of cornerstone donors, Dr. Natasha and Brandon Beck, SEED LA is not only committed to preparing students for college, but also exposing students to a range of professional careers within the broader transportation and infrastructure sectors. This will include interdisciplinary courses in STEM fields, a mentorship program connecting students to industry professionals, internships at Metro and with industry partners, and field trips both locally and globally to give students a deeper understanding and appreciation for the infrastructure we all rely on each day.

“All over this country, infrastructure projects are being designed, built and managed in underserved communities by people who are neither indigenous to these communities nor reflective of these communities’ demographics,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Investing in the education of underserved children of color will bring transformational change to both SEED LA students and the communities they will contribute to in the future.”

“SEED schools change the lives of the students they serve and uplift the communities they call home,” shared Dr. Natasha and Brandon Beck, the project’s cornerstone donors. “We are honored to support the visionary team that is bringing this game-changing model to Los Angeles. The seeds we are planting today will bear tremendous fruit not just for our graduates, but for the entire region.”

SEED LA will serve 400 students in grades 9-12 selected through an admissions lottery weighted to prioritize resilient youth such as students experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, have an incarcerated family member, or have had contact with the foster care, child protection, or juvenile justice system.

“So why a public boarding school rather than college readiness, college access, and college completion?” asked Lesley Poole, CEO of the SEED Foundation. “Because SEED goes further. SEED’s five-day-a-week, 120-hour public boarding school exists to plant, water, and nurture what all humans deeply long to know, that we matter and that we belong. SEED exists to double down on what all parents say to their children, “You are beautiful, you can achieve all things, and you have a place and purpose in this world.”

“SEED LA provides a powerful double bottom line: improved outcomes for at-risk students and the transformation of an abandoned part of the city into a vibrant center of urban redevelopment,” said ExED President and CEO Anita Landecker, who helped bring the SEED Foundation to L.A. “This project will unlock the door of privilege to students who have been locked out – and reinvigorate communities long left behind.”

This monumental development is taking place because the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took the extraordinary step of acquiring the 4.2-acre property at the corner of Vermont and Manchester Avenues through eminent domain in 2018. The dirt lot has been vacant since the 1992 civil unrest.

Improvements will be completed in two phases. The first phase will commence immediately, with utility upgrade work followed by the construction of the SEED LA campus on the northern side of the property. The second phase, located on the northeast corner of the property, is anticipated to begin in 2021. It will include 180 affordable apartments, 55,000 square feet of community-serving retail, a transit plaza and a Metro-operated Job and Innovation Center. The mixed-used project is being developed by Primestor, Bridge Housing and the Coalition for Responsible Community Development.

35,000 Masks to Skid Row Street Outreach Teams focused on Mental Health

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas will facilitate the donation of 35,000 surgical masks to the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health’s Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement (HOME) teams at the Downtown Mental Health Clinic in Skid Row.

HOME teams include mental health psychiatrists and counselors, psychiatric nurses and social workers, substance abuse counselors, medical caseworkers, and people who have experienced homelessness. They work directly with people living on the streets, at parks and under freeways to offer compassionate, knowledgeable, collaborative help in accessing medical, psychiatric and social services. They also provide consultation, advocacy, transportation, intensive case management and collaborate with other agencies to coordinate linkages to relevant services and resources – including housing, mental health services, access to healthcare, and benefits establishment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, HOME teams have been a key part of Los Angeles County’s effort to provide particularly vulnerable populations with critical basic needs, including food, water and clothing, personal protective equipment, temporary stays in a hotel or motel room through Project Roomkey and/or affordable apartments with supportive services.

“HOME teams represent the best of Los Angeles County, going out every day to serve some of our most vulnerable neighbors, literally saving lives in a pandemic,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With this donation of surgical masks, we can help keep them safe, as well as their clients, who need care more than ever.”

Director General Louis Huang of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, which donated the masks, said, “Taiwan fights relentlessly to protect our friends from COVID-19 and the Taiwan Can Help campaign was launched to ensure masks for all. We are all Angelenos fighting COVID-19 as one. Taiwan stands in solidarity with LA to safeguard the lives in our City of Angels.”

“Throughout the COVID crisis, our staff has remained on the frontlines to serve the County’s most vulnerable individuals and families experiencing homelessness, supporting their wellbeing as the pandemic continues to take a toll on physical and mental health,” said Jonathan E. Sherin, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.  “The vital work our HOME team does would not be possible without their passion and commitment and keeping them safe with personal protective equipment is a priority to us. We thank Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office for their gift of 35,000 surgical masks to support the health of our staff.”

Below is a summary of work performed by the HOME teams since the Safer at Home order was issued in March:

  • 19,513 Outreach Contacts
  • 323 People placed in Project Room Key
  • 79 People placed in Los Angeles Recreation and Parks shelters
  • 31 People transported to Isolation & Quarantine sites for observation/treatment related to COVID-19
  • 122 People placed in interim housing (other than Project Roomkey)
  • 80 People matched to permanent supportive housing
  • 42 people placed in permanent supportive housing
  • 63 People assigned to Full Service Partnership (FSP) intensive mental health treatment programs

As the pandemic continues, the HOME Teams’ focus is shifting from providing transitional services to facilitating ongoing mental health care and safe housing for their clients.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Steps Up for Skilled Nursing Homes

A day after watchdog agencies released their initial analyses into why skilled nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stepped up to help their patients and staff by donating 20,000 N95 masks and a decontamination kit, and by arranging COVID-19 Mobile Testing at the Santa Fe Heights Healthcare Center in Compton.

“Skilled nursing homes that care for some of our most vulnerable Angelenos – the elderly, the low-income, and the disabled – have struggled more than most to stave off COVID-19,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Seven months into this pandemic, people who resided or worked in skilled nursing facilities account for 42 percent of deaths across our County. We must be vigilant about ensuring patients and employees have access to personal protective equipment and frequent testing during the pandemic, while also staying focused on reforms that will benefit patients and staff in this industry for the long-term.”

In partnership with SEIU Local 2015, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas facilitated a donation of 20,000 N95 masks from Moldex to skilled nursing homes across Los Angeles County and their employees.

“During this pandemic, nursing home workers are placing their health and safety on the line every day in order to ensure that their residents and patients have the care they need,” April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015, said. “It’s shameful that these essential workers still don’t have assurances that they will consistently have the personal protective equipment that’s required to protect themselves and those that they care for from potential exposure to COVID-19. Saying this is unacceptable is an understatement. It’s way past time for elected officials in DC to stop playing politics with our lives. We need a national plan the adequately responds to this crisis.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas also arranged for COVID-19 mobile testing with the help of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, and facilitated the donation of a decontamination kit from the California Metals Coalition and the Metal Finishing Association of California to clean masks so they can be used multiple times.

“California’s advanced metal manufacturing sector makes essential parts for ventilation machines, infrastructure, aerospace, electric cars, and biotech. When the COVID‐19 crisis escalated in California, our sector’s metal engineers and chemists stepped up,” said James Simonelli, Executive Director of the California Metals Coalition in Sacramento. “Making this technology available for free to impacted communities and healthcare workers is our way of helping as we all navigate these difficult times.”

Yesterday, the Office of Inspect General and Auditor-Controller released their initial analyses into why skilled nursing homes have been an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. An inadequate supply of personal protective equipment was among the factors they cited.

The Auditor Controller’s report also put a spotlight on the large number of outstanding investigations into skilled nursing facilities – about 11,600 cases. Several hundred of the complaints warned of the potential of “immediate jeopardy” to patients. Subsequent reports by the Inspector General and Auditor Controller are anticipated to provide recommendations on how to address this backlog and improve oversight of these facilities.

Jewish Free Loan Association Extends Support to Second District

As the need for financial relief continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is partnering with the Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) to extend financial help to families in financial distress who are living in the Second Supervisor District by offering  no-fee, zero-interest loans. Recognizing the urgent need for support, a grant of $500,000 has been allocated by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to facilitate emergency loans of $3,00-$6,000 for individuals and families and up to $18,000 to aid small businesses who may not qualify through normal financial channels.      

It’s often one car accident, one exorbitant health care bill, one month of not being able to pay rent that can lead a family into financial distress, and far too often, homelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this dynamic,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “I am pleased to be partnering with the Jewish Free Loan Association, one of our communities long-serving lending institutions, to aid families struggling to make ends meet with no-interest and no-fee loans that can meet their urgent needs.” 

Not only can JFLA’s loans be used to help individuals and families facing personal financial struggles, they can also be used to support small businesses through these trying times.  

“At this moment of stress and uncertainty, JFLA remains committed to helping our friends and neighbors get through this unprecedented crisis,” said JFLA Executive Director Rachel Grose.  “With help from partners like Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, our zero-interest loans are making a real difference in people’s lives.” 

“The loan I received from JFLA helped me find a place, pay my deposit and first month’s rent. I know what it feels like to be homeless—I don’t ever want to go back to that dark place,” said one of JFLA’s clients, named Andrea. 

If you are in need of financial assistance, please visit https://www.jfla.org/ for more information and to apply for a loan.