Homeless Shelters Open During Stormy Weather

March 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a reminder to the homeless Monday that winter shelters offer expanded hours during stormy weather.

Shelters typically open at 5 p.m. and close in the mornings, but during heavy rains, cold temperatures or high winds, the shelters generally stay open around the clock.

To find the nearest winter shelter and instructions about when and how to gain admittance, call 211. The operator can also provide information about additional overflow shelters opened due to the inclement weather, but are not listed on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority website.

A list of the regular winter shelters, as well as information about pick- up locations, can be found at http://www.lahsa.org/ces/winter-shelter/home.

City officials “are doing everything possible to keep residents safe during the El Nino winter weather,” according to Garcetti.

The Los Angeles fire and police departments have also been working to evacuate known flood areas in advance of storms, he said.

7 Temporary Shelters Opened in County-Owned Gyms

January 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

With a series of storms in the forecast this week, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority announced Monday the opening of seven temporary shelters to augment facilities it already operates.

Most of the authority’s winter shelters, which are located throughout the county, opened in November and December, and have beds for about 2,000 people. The additional seven locations will be able to temporarily house 1,131 people, according to the authority.

Four of the additional shelters will open tonight, while three more will open tomorrow night. Information on locations and transportation to reach them is available at www.lahsa.org or by calling 211.

The additional shelters are located in county-owned gymnasiums.

Sheriff’s and Housing Authority officials have been reaching out to homeless people living in riverbeds and flood-control channels to warn them about the impending rain and encouraging them to take advantage of the shelters, according to the authority.

Prompted by the storms, Los Angeles County’s health officer has declared a cold weather alert for mountain areas and the Antelope Valley, where the wind chill could drop below freezing.

The alert for county mountains will be in effect through Friday, while the alert will be in effect through Wednesday in the Antelope Valley.

“Children, the elderly and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during such cold snaps,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer. “There are places where people can go to stay warn, such as shelters or other public facilities.”

Cold weather precautions include:
— dressing in layers of warm clothing;
— protecting extremities by wearing a hat, scarf and gloves;
— not leaving pets outdoors overnight;
— if outdoor generators are used, placing them at least 10 feet away from doors and windows to avoid exhaust gases entering the home; and
— installing carbon monoxide detectors.

 

Council Approves Donation For Homeless Shelter

December 17, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday approved a $20,000 donation to a nonprofit organization that operates a 36-bed homeless shelter at a Highland Park church and was earlier denied funding.

The money will go to Recycled Resources, which is working with All Saints Episcopal Church to turn pews into beds. The group has been relying on crowd-funding efforts and financial help from the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council and the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.

Monica Alcaraz, a volunteer with the group, said the funds will help the group reimburse the church for heating, lighting and other costs.

The church is “not charging (us) anything, but we feel it’s necessary to pay for the costs they are incurring,” she said.

The money may also be used for food, Metro TAP cards and other necessities, she said.

Councilman Jose Huizar introduced the motion to take the $20,000 out of his 14th Council District’s discretionary account.

“I wanted to ensure that they have the necessary funding to continue their life-altering work during this time of need and upcoming El Nino storms,” he said.

“I had the pleasure of recently meeting several NELA (Northeast Los Angeles) shelter residents, and I am profoundly impressed by their thankfulness, grace and high spirits.”

Recycled Resources is also hoping to apply for more funding from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which provides money to winter shelters.

The funds could pay those who are volunteers who are helping despite having day jobs, making sure there is better chance for the shelter to keep running, Alcaraz said.

The nonprofit organization may work with Ascencia, a more experienced shelter provider that operates an 80-bed shelter in Glendale and already receives funding from LAHSA.

Natalie Komuro, executive director for Ascencia, said it is working out a contract with LAHSA to obtain funding for the All Saints Episcopal Church site.

Because LAHSA’s winter shelter funding is distributed based on the number of beds, Komuro said it may face a $30,000 funding gap because the number of staff that may be needed and other operating expenses stays the same whether it is a 36-bed or 80-bed shelter.

The shelter also faced a hurdle recently when LAHSA deemed the church site unsuitable, with the agency’s officials noting that pews were being used as the beds.

This prompted Councilman Gil Cedillo to recommend the Bridewell Armory, a facility owned by the city. However, Recycled Resources volunteers criticized this site as being unready for immediate use.

Alcaraz described the armory as “inhabitable,” saying it needs remodeling and has no electricity or running water. Ceja countered that the location is actually not as bad as described and can be quickly converted into a shelter.

Komuro said it appears Cedillo, whose district includes the church site, has since been able to persuade LAHSA to reconsider the church location, and is now moving forward with the contract to provide winter shelter funding.

Cedillo appeared to signal his support for the church site, authoring a motion approved by the council today that includes Ascencia as the city’s designated temporary shelter provider for the All Saints Episcopal Church location.

Cedillo aide Fredy Ceja said this will allow Ascencia to work with LAHSA to obtain the per-bed shelter funding, and relax building rules that typically makes the church shelter vulnerable to being shut down by city building officials.

Designating Ascencia as the service provider for the church shelter would also make the group eligible for the next round of city homeless services funding, after it was unable to get funding from the $12.4 million in emergency homeless relief money that was proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and recently approved by the City Council.

Alcaraz said that despite Cedillo’s motion, there are still many unknowns.

Ascencia’s board still needs to decide if it would be financially feasible to take over the shelter, so there is no guarantee they would agree to do it, and LAHSA has not directly told Recycled Resources that the church site has been approved, Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz, who is also president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, added that Cedillo could have done more to help them get the relief funding.

Cedillo had originally intended to assign funds to their shelter, but instead of specifying from the outset that some of the $12.4 million should go to the All Saints Episcopal Church shelter, he had submitted their request using the more vague wording of “Highland Park shelter.”

This move, or Cedillo’s unwillingness to commit to the church site, could have hurt their chances of getting the money, Alcaraz said. She said Cedillo appeared to want to push the armory facility, located in the 14th Council District.

“Why not support something that’s already happening, and going to continue to happen?” Alcaraz said, referring to the existing church shelter.

“Or at least I’m going to try.”

 

Winter Shelter Opens in NELA

December 17, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

When three homeless sisters heard a church in Highland Park would soon open a nighttime shelter, they quickly went to check it out. After all, their only other option was to keep sleeping on the floor of a public restroom at Sycamore Grove Park, where they’ve bedded down for the last few months.

The pews at All Saints Episcopal Church welcomed them with a sleeping bag, a pillow and some toiletries. Warm meals are offered in the small kitchen while movies are projected onto a screen.

Lea este artículo en Español: Refugio de Invierno Abre sus Puertas en Highland Park

More than two weeks have passed since the sisters started their nightly ritual of lining up to secure a pew – a welcome respite from the outdoor elements and the restroom floor.
“It’s way better than sleeping in the cold,” says fifty-six-year old Hope, who did not want to give her last name. The sisters were among the first six people to gain admission to the church shelter when it opened Dec. 1.
Within days, the Winter Access Center shelter was at full capacity and people had to be turned away, said Rebecca Prine, volunteer director of nonprofit Recycled Resources for the Homeless, a public charity in Northeast L.A.
“Everything has been going very well and our little community is thriving,” Prine told EGP. “We have been relying on the generosity of others in the community.”
In September, Mayor Garcetti and members of the city council declared “a state of emergency on homelessness” and committed $100 million to provide permanent and transitional housing to those in need.
Months have passed and homeless activists have grown impatient with the city’s slow response.

A pillow, a sleeping bag and toiletries were placed on every pew of the church. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

A pillow, a sleeping bag and toiletries were placed on every pew of the church. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

Temperatures are falling and El Niño storms are on their way, said Prine, explaining Recycled Resources had to step in after seeing no action from the L.A. City Council.
Local neighborhood councils, businesses and volunteers collaborated to find a place for their homeless neighbors. Rev. W. Clarke Prescott of All Saints Episcopal Church agreed to open the church as a temporary winter shelter.
The church has space for 30 guests per night. There’s a small space on the second floor for people with children; pets are also welcome.
But more help is needed, said Prine, criticizing city officials for not stepping up.
Representatives from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency (LAHSA) visited the shelter to evaluate it’s eligibility for funding.
The homeless service agency’s 2015 Homeless Count identified more than 25,000 homeless in the city of Los Angeles. Countywide, homelessness has risen 12 percent since the 2013 count, from 39,461 to 44,359.
On Monday, LAHSA spokesperson Kelli Pezzelle told EGP the church does not meet the agency’s safety standards. Among the issues, pews are too narrow to be used as beds and there are no fire extinguishers, Pezzelle said. The agency rejected the funding request for the Winter Access Center, but reversed its decision Wednesday.
According to Councilman Cedillo’s spokesperson Fredy Ceja, his boss sent a letter Tuesday to LAHSA urging the agency to reconsider its determination “given the urgent need for immediate shelter.” Cedillo’s letter noted that All Saints “is the only shelter currently available to homeless individuals in NELA, and LAHSA’s support of this site will expand the scope of services available in the area.”

Following LAHSA’s reversal, Cedillo said he “immediately introduced a motion to place the site on the winter shelter list, securing protections under the shelter crisis. This will allow them to access LAHSA funds and operate through the winter season,” the councilman said in a news release.
Councilman Jose Huizar also jumped in to support the center, getting approval from the council to allow him to transfer $20,000 in his office’s discretionary funds to the shelter.
The city council Wednesday also approved a motion Cedillo introduced Tuesday asking the Dept. of Recreation and Parks to immediately open the Bridewell Armory in Highland Park as a winter shelter.
Cedillo’s request comes on the heels of the approval of Councilman Jose Huizar’s motion to allocate $12.5 million for “immediate assistance for homeless, rapid rehousing and winter shelters” citywide.
The funding includes $10 million for “rapid re-housing” subsidies for nearly 1,000 transients to help them with rent or move-in costs. The remaining funds will increase shelter beds this winter by more than 50 percent — to a total of 1,300. These beds will be targeted to those living in the Los Angeles River bed and the Tujunga and Arroyo Seco washes.
“While some of this money helps prepare long-term infrastructure to address homelessness, the bulk of the money is for immediate actions to help people get off of the streets,” Huizar said.
The center has remained open with support from the local community. The neighborhood councils of Highland Park and Eagle Rock have each approved funds for the center: $1,000 and $4,000 respectively.
While everyone in Northeast L.A. is talking about homelessness, no one is doing anything about it, explained Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council President David Greene.
“Neighborhood Councils can and should be leading the way on issues that are too political or too local for the City Council and Mayor to deal with in a timely way,” he told EGP. “So while the City of L.A. figures out how to find and spend the millions of dollars in its ‘war on homelessness,’ the ERNC saw a way to do something about the situation in NELA immediately.”
Individuals have donated cooked meals, clothes, books and pet food; volunteers are running the shelter, open from 7p.m. to 8a.m.
For those lucky enough to get a spot for the night, it’s a safe and warm haven from the bitter winter cold.
Every night, volunteer Nereida Vazquez greets shelter residents, sometimes staying overnight to see to their needs. A former drug addict and victim of domestic violence, Vasquez says she knows first hand the value of having a place to sleep, since she was once homeless and had her three children taken away by the department of family services.
It feels great to now be in a place to give back to those in need, she told EGP.

The shelter at All Saints Episcopal Church opened on Dec. 1st with six homeless arriving on the first night, now it’s at capacity with over 30 people every night. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The shelter at All Saints Episcopal Church opened on Dec. 1st with six homeless arriving on the first night, now it’s at capacity with over 30 people every night. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“We need to come together as a community because nobody really represents the homeless community,” she said. “It’s been a challenge, but also an honor to be part of the team.”
Vazquez’ mother and daughter visit her at the shelter and her daughter helps out. “I feel very proud to have my family here,” said Vazquez, adding volunteering is a valuable lesson for her daughter.
Recycled Resources hopes to link participants to the supportive services they need to improve their situations before the temporary facility shuts down in March.
Monica Alcaraz, a Recycled Resources volunteer and president of the Highland Park neighborhood council, told EGP they evaluate each shelter resident’s situation and recommend the appropriate assistance.
“The cases are different, some of them want to apply for housing, others need basic documentation like an [identification] or social security card,” she said.
“I am proud of the work we have been able to do as a community and for our community,” said Prine. “If we do not [get] city funds we will still succeed and shame on our elected officials.”
According to Hope, Recycled Resources has already helped the sisters apply for Section 8 housing, which they hope to get into before the shelter closes.
“We are not bad people, we just happened to be on the streets and we need help,” she said with a sense of sadness.
“But I know I’ll get out of this situation soon.”

For more information about the shelter visit www.recycledresources.org.

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Twitter @jackiereporter

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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