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