Most children in the United States spend their school days dreaming of their next birthday party or worrying whether they’re popular enough. Not America’s homeless youth.
Students like Jamie Talley, who first became homeless at age 2, are thinking about how the weather will affect their sleep and how to silence their growling stomachs during a test.
“I was pushed out of the world and left to survive on my own,” Talley said in a scholarship essay quoted by the Washington Post. “I had given up on the possibilities for me to become somebody.”
Fortunately, Talley had a teacher who helped her get Medicaid and pushed her to focus on her education.
But most homeless students don’t feel supported at school. They feel that their schools simply don’t have the funding, time, staff, community awareness, or resources to help, and that’s the way it’s always going to be. This feeling of invisibility continues to disconnect citizens with consistent housing from those without.
There are more than 1.3 million homeless students in the U.S., according to a new report by Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates. Seventy-eight percent of homeless youth surveyed in the study have experienced homelessness more than once in their lives.
Why are so many of us disconnected from this crisis?
Many homeless students say they’re uncomfortable talking with their schools about their housing situation and the challenges that impact their ability to learn. Additionally, 94 percent of those surveyed stay with different people on an inconsistent basis, adding to the ambiguity that makes recognizing homelessness more difficult.
But it’s not like homelessness is a new phenomenon.
Since the Homeless Services Reform Act of 2003, experts and politicians in D.C. have repeatedly considered legislation to combat the issue. But they haven’t taken substantive action.
With roughly 490 unaccompanied youth, including 330 designated as homeless youth, filling the streets of America’s capital, the question is: What are we going to do about it?
The CEHRA report’s recommendations include focusing on outreach efforts, increased resources for homeless students, and developing national and local goals around increasing graduation rates.
These could be applied to any community in the country. We actually already have the backbone in place to combat the epidemic of youth homelessness across the nation.
Proper implementation of the Every Child Succeeds Act, signed into effect in December 2015, could help alleviate the current hurdles that make homeless students 78 percent more likely to drop out—like proof-of-residency requirements and the loss of records and credits when kids transfer schools.
These bureaucratic barriers have left homeless students scared to talk openly with their mentors and teachers about their situations.
The Department of Education must lead the fight for improved oversight standards, increased mentorship programs, and the enforcement of regulations that ensure students are provided with a fair and valuable education.
But improving school life for homeless students isn’t a cure-all. Increasing affordable housing is also key, especially in so-called “up-and-coming” city neighborhoods where houses stand boarded up next to luxury apartments.
Pushing low-income housing to the outskirts or into areas without modern conveniences is unjust. Instead, cities can redevelop already existing structures with sustainable green infrastructure. They can also take a note from California legislators, who proposed spending nearly $2 billion to create housing opportunities for their mentally ill homeless population.
Although addressing rising homelessness throughout the nation will require legislative change from the top, setting community goals and educating citizens about the realities of homelessness can help combat the sentiment of invisibility that plagues homeless students.
This way, when we pass a homeless person on the street, we’ll remember that person has a name, an identity, a passion, a story, and—most importantly—that they deserve fundamental rights and respect just like everyone else.
Roseangela Hartford recently completed at internship at Progressive Congress. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to place a bond measure on the November ballot aimed at raising money to address the city’s homelessness problem, and postponed consideration of a related parcel tax measure until Friday.
The council agreed to ask voters to authorize $1.2 billion in bonds to be issued over 10 years, but is also considering an alternative parcel tax measure that could raise $90 million per year until 2027 for homeless housing and services.
The council has yet to decide which revenue-raising strategy to advance and is being asked to place both the bond and tax measures on the ballot, at least for now. The council would have until Aug. 12 to withdraw one of the measures.
At least two City Council members — Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris- Dawson — are pushing for the bond proposal, with both pointing to recent polling indicating the public would be more receptive to it over a parcel tax measure.
Harris Dawson, who chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, said the goal is to help get 10,000 units built to house the homeless. The revenue from the bond measure would be used to spur such housing projects, with the city acting as partner and the purchaser of the property where the housing is to be built.
“The council has decided to put before the voters an opportunity to make an investment in dealing with the homelessness crisis that we see in our city,” Harris-Dawson said. “Every indication that we have is that people are eager for a solution and are willing to pay for it.”
Huizar, who also sits on the homelessness committee, said in a statement that the vote to put the bond measure on the ballot was a “huge leap forward in addressing homelessness.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is leaning toward supporting the bond, rather than the parcel tax measure. He cited polling numbers and the amount of revenue that would be brought in to explain his preference.
The parcel tax would be calculated based on the square footage of improvements, while the bond measure would be paid back through taxes based on a property’s assessed value.
City officials estimate that under a $1.2 billion bond measure, property owners would generally need to pay an additional $4.50 to $17.50 per year for every $100,000 of assessed value, with the payments lasting for as many as 28 years.
The parcel tax measure calls for levying $0.0348 per square foot of a property’s improvements until 2027. City officials estimate the tax would bring in $90 million per year for the city to use in addressing homelessness.
City leaders last year vowed to tackle homelessness and to put about $100 million toward the effort. They estimate it will cost about $1.85 billion over a decade to adequately house and provide services to homeless individuals and families in Los Angeles. A recent count put the city’s transient population at about 27,000.
While city leaders point to polling, the president of an apartment owners group said members will likely be against the measures.
“We’re taxed to death already,” said Dan Faller, president of the Los Angeles-based Apartment Owners Association of California. “The city of Los Angeles already puts a cap on our income with our rent control, harass us with property inspections, and now they want to put more tax on us.”
He added that “apartment buildings have a lot more square footage than single-family houses, so they’re asking us to carry a lot more of the load.”
Faller said the council members should focus on what they are personally doing to help the homeless, rather than forcing property owners to put up the money.
“If they have this feeling for the homeless, let me see their tax returns and how much each of them … contribute now to the homeless and people who are not fed?” he said.
Faller said his group will likely look to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to fight the proposed measures.
Councilman Mike Bonin said this week — prior to a preliminary vote on the bond measure — said the city is moving forward despite a countywide proposal to put a “millionaires” tax on the ballot that would have high-income earners helping to pay for homeless housing and services. That proposal is stalled because Gov. Jerry Brown is “stubbornly not allowing the county to pursue” the measure, Bonin said.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said that with the bond measure, the individual bonds would only be issued when “projects surface.”
“We’re trying to avoid a situation where we’re borrowing more than what we need,” he said.
The money from either the parcel tax or the bond measure would be spent on housing for people who are homeless or in danger of being pushed onto the streets. The funds would also be earmarked for facilities that provide mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment and other assistance.
City leaders are hoping to submit the proposed measure or measures by July 1 so that they can be placed on the November ballot.
The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday tentatively approved revisions to a law that prohibits the storage of property in public areas such as sidewalks, making it so that at least for now, transients will be allowed to keep 60 gallons worth of belongings.
The move came over the objections of advocates for the homeless, who say the law essentially makes homelessness a crime.
The council voted 13-1 to sign off on amendments – including the 60- gallon provision – to the city law known as 56.11 that prohibits tents and other living space to be set up between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. and currently does not allow any storage of personal property in public areas.
Because the vote was not unanimous, the ordinance will return for a second and final vote on April 6.
Councilman Gil Cedillo voted against the revisions. He said there was no need to adopt such a measure because there are other laws that could address concerns raised today by homeowners and others about criminal activity, obstruction of accessibility in public areas and unsanitary conditions associated with homeless encampments.
Councilman Mike Bonin said he was not completely happy with the ordinance, but considered it an improvement over the one now on the books, which only allows homeless individuals to keep as many belongings as they can carry.
The City Council has been under pressure to strengthen the law against legal challenges from advocates for the homeless, and to avoid being seen as criminalizing them.
Top homeless services officials for the city and county also urged the city to change the law to remove any aspects that would criminalize homelessness, saying that failing to do so would jeopardize about $110 million in federal funding needed to provide housing and other services to the homeless.
The City Council voted last November to amend the law to remove aspects that could be seen as criminalizing homelessness. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the first chunk of the funding – $84.2 million – to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
But the City Council did not move until today to approve the actual language of the amendments promised last fall, and advocates for the homeless say the revisions still contain criminal penalties and provisions that would punish the homeless for being forced to live on the streets.
Under the revisions, it would be unlawful for homeless individuals and others who refuse to take down their encampments during the day or prevent a city employee from doing so.
It would also be a misdemeanor if an individual delays, resists or obstructs a city employee from moving, removing, impounding or discarding personal property stored in a public area.
Homeless individuals would be allowed to store a 60-gallon bin’s worth of belongings – including deconstructed tents, bedding, clothes, food, medicine, documents and other personal items – on the sidewalk as long as they are attended.
The city could still impound property that is left unattended and any property that is in excess of the 60 gallons, under the revised ordinance.
City attorneys said earlier this month the amendments are aimed at giving the city a way to keep sidewalks clear and accessible while allowing homeless individuals to keep some belongings if there are no other places to store them.
Assistant City Attorney Valerie Flores told the Homelessness and Poverty Committee that the 60-gallon provision was included in the hope of striking “the right balance,” but added that “this is sort of uncharted territory” in terms of whether the courts would accept it.
She said the provision is an improvement over the existing law, which “did not allow anything a person couldn’t carry.”
“We do believe this is a lawful ordinance and a court would appreciate the dueling interests that we’re trying to serve and hopefully uphold the ordinance,” Flores said.
The proposed ordinance could cost the Los Angeles area the remaining $24 million in HUD grants being sought by the city and county’s joint homelessness services authority “at a time when the city and county can scarcely afford to lose a single dollar in federal funding for the homeless,” , according to the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
A transient was stabbed Thursday night during an argument with another transient in Boyle Heights.
The stabbing on Fourth Street near the northbound Hollywood (101) Freeway was reported at about 7 p.m., said Sgt. Michael Castaneda of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Station.
A witness told police the two men might have been friends but they got into an argument before one man stabbed the other in the chest, Castaneda said.
The victim was taken to County-USC Medical Center for treatment of serious wounds, Castaneda said.
The suspect fled the scene, Castaneda said.
Outraged community members are organizing to demand answers from local authorities after some Recreational Vehicles parked along Figueroa Street in Highland Park were impounded on Friday.
Rebecca Prine, volunteer director with Recycled Resources for the Homeless—a nonprofit helping homeless—said via email the organization wasn’t notified about the sweep in front of the Sycamore Grove Park and blames local Councilman Gil Cedillo for leaving people in need without a home and with the possibility of increasing park and street homelessness.
Witness of the towing, Jaime Kate told EGP “two or three” RVs were towed “and at least one car.”
During the homeless count organized last month by the Los Angeles Homeless Authority—the agency in charge of providing services to homeless—over 30 Recreational Vehicles (RVs) were counted as permanent homes for people living in the northeast, according to Recycled Resources.
Prine said many of the RV residents are people displaced from their homes in the northeast as they were given rental increases they were unable to afford.
“Had Recycled Resources for the Homeless been made aware of this action we would have used funding we have collected to assist our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” said Prine.
Fredy Ceja, communications director with the councilman told EGP there was no sweep. “There are parking restrictions on Figueroa, which if not adhered to, result in fines.”
He explained that some of the RVs have been in the same location for over a year and Recycled Resources is aware of it.
“You can’t leave your car for a long period of time in the same spot.”
Constituents of the area have been complaining with the police and the councilman’s office due to “loitering and illicit activities,” said Ceja.
He said parking enforcement advised the owners to move their vehicles, and while some of the RVs moved across the street, others stayed in the same spot, which led to their towing.
Wednesday night community members reunited at the All Episcopal Church in Highland Park—which currently serves as shelter for over 30 homeless people—to talk about the issue and find solutions to assist people in getting their RVs back as well as to work in a solution to help the owners.
Recycled Resources stated that “this community belongs to everyone, not just those who can afford to live here,” and they would like to see resources for every social economic level in the community.
“We would like to work toward establishing a safe place for people to park RVs, with resources for bathrooms and waste disposal here in the community they call home,” said Prine.
Ceja said Cedillo’s office is looking for places to park the RVs without problems. In the mean time, he said it would be good if the church provides space to park some RVs on its parking lot.
With the huge number of tents, tarps and cardboard homes covering county sidewalks, riverbeds, and under- and over-paths, and the large number of campers, cars and trailers lining streets in many neighborhoods, we can no longer deny the fact that the homeless crisis in the Los Angeles region is growing at neck-breaking speed.
Officials in both the county and city of Los Angeles this week approved wide-ranging plans to help house the estimated 45,000 plus people who are now homeless, and to stop people from entering those ranks in the future.
Both sets of plans propose a myriad of actions aimed at ending homelessness, such as providing housing vouchers and supporting the building of more affordable and transitional housing, hiring more mental health and social workers to work comprehensively to solve each unique situation.
All these proposals come with a hefty price tag, but the cost of doing nothing is much higher,
There’s no denying that rising rental prices have made it even more difficult for working people living on the margins who with one unexpected expense could wind up on the streets.
Finding low-income and affordable housing is a challenge, especially in neighborhoods where people are dead set against that type of housing being built. We can’t help but wonder if they think people living behind their grocery stores, in campers on their streets, in library parking lots, in parks and on freeway off-ramps are preferable. Do they assume that everyone, including children, who will make those units their home are “undesirable?” All of the housing will be unattractive?
An article in today’s issue spells out in broad terms what both the city and county propose to do and the money they believe is needed to accomplish those goals. It’s clear that there are still many challenges ahead, finding all the money needed being the biggest.
We want to recommend that the city and county strongly consider providing locations where people living in campers and cars can safely park their vehicles. We suggest that those locations include sanitary services, such as portable restrooms and bathing facilities, and proper methods to dispose of waste from the vehicles.
Instead of chasing away people living in “tiny houses,” or worse yet confiscating the houses, officials should be looking for ways to support them as transitional housing until real homes can be built, and housing subsidies provided.
Some worry that providing these places will lead to permanent encampments and homeless neighborhoods, but we believe the greater probability is they will become centralized areas where mental health and medical care services can be provided, and where social service workers can make contact with people in need of more permanent solutions.
We understand that the cure to the homeless crisis is much more complicated than just providing housing, but we have to start somewhere, and we need to start now.
The Commerce City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution to participate in the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count taking place Jan. 26 to Jan. 28.
The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA)—a City and County of Los Angeles joint power authority formed to address homelessness—is diligently working on its annual homeless count in the City and County of Los Angeles.
Lea este artículo en Español: Commerce Opta por Inclusión en Conteo de Personas Sin Hogar 2016
In 2009, LAHSA expanded its Opt-In provision to allow more local cities and communities to coordinate homeless counts within their borders using local volunteers from public and private agencies. In 2015, 248 cities and communities—including neighborhood councils—enumerated all of their census tracts.
This year, about 126 cities and communities —including Bell Gardens, Monterey Park, East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and Northeast Los Angeles — have signed up to take part, according to Kimberly Barnette, LAHSA regional coordinator.
She told EGP they are still working on getting the cities of Montebello and Vernon to join the massive effort.
The Opt-In Program makes it possible for LAHSA, with a high level of confidence, to obtain specific data and totals on the homeless population in every census tract in a city or neighborhood, according to LAHSA spokesperson Naomi Goldman.
“Participation allows jurisdictions to access the methodology of the 2016 Homeless Count to obtain a Point-In-Time Count estimate of the sheltered and unsheltered homeless population,” she told EGP via email. “Opting-in allows cities, neighborhoods and communities to understand the situation, bring resources to local communities and drive civic engagement.”
Barnette—who made a power presentation about LAHSA’s homeless count to the Commerce Council Tuesday—said they have already identified hot spots for homelessness, some of those areas are near Rosewood Park and Atlantic and Washington Boulevards.
In 2015, LAHSA identified over 44,000 homeless living in the Los Angeles regions. Those numbers do not include Long Beach, Pasadena or Glendale.
During the last homeless count, LAHSA identified 52 homeless in Commerce, all of them adults; 20 living in campers, 15 in vans and cars, 9 on the street, 6 in encampments and 2 living in tents.
Over the past two years, Commerce has made assisting the homeless a priority, said Matthew Rodriguez, director of public safety and community services with Commerce.
“We have reached out to as many as possible and have had success with placement in local shelters,” he told EGP, explaining that outreach is conducted through the city’s Social Services Department.
According to Rodriguez, staff refers the city’s homeless to the Salvation Army’s 70-bed shelter in nearby Bell or connect them to the People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) agency in Los Angeles.
Councilwoman Tina Baca del Rio, however, said she is worried that the homeless people in Commerce may not want help because they have found a way of living by earning easy money.
“Panhandling has become a way of life [in Commerce]…[homeless people] say they get a lot of money from people that go to casinos,” she said, asking Barnette to have LAHSA look into that issue.
“Maybe they can get more services instead of relying on panhandling,” she said.
By opting in, Commerce will be responsible for counting all the unsheltered homeless people in the agreed-upon census tracts. They also need to find a deployment site, select a site coordinator and recruit volunteers.
Rodriguez told EGP Commerce has already taken care of almost everything, but are still in need of more volunteers. He said Commerce residents interested in helping can sign up with the Public Safety and Community Services Department located inside City Hall.
Along with volunteers, about 15 city staff and Sheriff deputies will take part in the count, said Rodriguez.
“There are some areas where we don’t want to send volunteers, so it’s better if the officers go there,” he added.
While Commerce has participated the past three years in the homeless count, this time is different, City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP.
“Previously, this was under the aegis of the regional Gateway Council of Governments (COG),” a more local and informal count, he said. “During this time period the process has become more formalized and at least for Commerce a much more accurate and thorough process.”
LAHSA expects to deploy about 6,000 volunteers during the three-day count in the city and county.
Since 2005, LAHSA has coordinated six biennial homeless counts, however, starting 2016 the count will occur annually, according to the agency’s website.
For those interested in volunteering or to obtain more information about the 2016 homeless count visit, www.theycountwillyou.com.
City and county agencies need to do more to help the thousands of people in the Los Angeles area who lack shelter during this winter’s El Nino storms, the county’s civil grand jury concluded in a report released Wednesday.
The panel’s report says plans submitted last fall by the area’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, are “unconscionable and grossly inadequate” in sheltering those who are forced to live on the streets.
The grand jury is “very concerned that the 2,772 shelter and surge capacity beds planned by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is just a fraction of the number necessary to shelter homeless people in severe weather,” the report states.
The panel recommended that the county and its 88 cities relax building and health codes to make more facilities available to shelter people who are homeless. It also suggested that funds be made available for supplies and equipment that give “minimal sheltering for homeless people who cannot be accommodated in shelters so that they might survive the rainstorms to come.”
The grand jury sent out surveys asking cities to detail their El Nino preparation plans, with Los Angeles responding that the city has 25,686 people who are homeless, 17,687 of whom are without shelter. There were 2,239 beds available in the city at the time of the survey, which needed to be submitted in November, according to the report.
Other cities were also surveyed, including Lancaster, Long Beach, Burbank, West Covina and Pasadena.
The greater Los Angeles area has an estimated 44,000 homeless people.
Vicki Curry, spokeswoman for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, said the report “underscores” the mayor’s own concerns and he will “take its recommendations into consideration as the city continues to address the needs of our homeless residents during these harsh winter months.”
The city recently increased the number of shelter beds by 50 percent and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has create a map of homeless encampments that can be used during the storms, Curry said.
City and county officials said Wednesday they are focused on doing outreach to encourage people living on the streets — whether in cars, makeshift structures or tents — to use additional shelters that were made available in anticipation of the heavy rains.
County officials said there are 2,000 winter shelters, plus another 1,131 beds at seven additional shelters.
Despite the outreach efforts, the majority of the added beds are still available, according to county officials.
If there is a need to accommodate more people, more city and county buildings, such as recreation and parks facilities, can be converted into shelters, officials said.
The City and County of Los Angeles are working diligently to inform the community about the preparations that can be taken during these stormy days.
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is informing the L.A.’s homeless population of the pending inclement weather, in an effort to keep them safe and dry.
Each geographical division of the LAPD has identified homeless encampments that are in areas subject to flooding, according to a press release sent to the media.
“Officers are out on foot, advising the homeless of the possible flood danger, as well as passing out flyers with locations of available shelters and property storage options,” stated LAPD.
Signs are posted, warning that heavy rain can cause floodwaters to rise, and public address systems are being utilized to ensure everyone hears the important information.
LAPD informed that if the Los Angeles Fire Department determines there is a predicted or anticipated rainfall within 24 hours, a Rain Notification Tracking Form must be completed, signed by a Watch Commander and forwarded to LAPD’s Real-Time Analysis & Critical Response Division. That form includes the date, time, location and method used for all notifications.
LAFD is Providing Sandbags
The Los Angeles area is periodically subject to floods that result in property damage. The potential for mudslides and debris flow is greatly increased near recent wildfires. Los Angeles residents—especially those in foothill and low-lying communities, are encouraged to prepare their properties in advance of coming rainstorms.
In an effort to help, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) works closely with the Department of General Services and has ordered more than 200,000 ready-to-fill sandbags, made available at all Neighborhood Fire Stations (Please note that residents are welcomed to no more than 25 bags).
LAFD also works very closely with the Bureau of Street Services and has ordered more than 250 tons of sand made available at several fire stations and convenient community locations.
These are some of the locations where residents can pick up their sand bags:
- Fire Station 44 (Cypress Park), 1410 Cypress Ave., (213) 485-6244
- Fire Station 42 (Eagle Rock), 2035 Colorado Blvd., (323) 254-5195
- Fire Station 2 (Boyle Heights), CD 14 Office, 2130 E. 1st St., (323) 526-9332 .
- Fire Station 42 (Eagle Rock), CD 14 Office, 2035 Colorado Blvd., (323) 254-5195
- Fire Station 44 (Cypress Park), 1410 Cypress Ave, (213) 485-6244
- Fire Station 47 (El Sereno), 4575 Huntington Dr South, (213) 485-6247
It is quite normal for potholes to form during heavy rain seasons. To report any new or existing potholes call 3-1-1.
More El Niño preparedness and emergency information can be obtained at the following websites:
LAFD sand bags pick up: http://www.lafd.org/news/lafd-provides-sandbags-homeowners-1
The City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department
- Main website: http://readyla.org/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReadyLA
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReadyLA
Breaking El Niño emergency information
- Website (sign up): http://emergency.lacity.org/EOCOperations/NotifyLA/index.htm
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/NotifyLA
El Niño preparedness information website: http://www.elninola.com
Cuando tres hermanas indigentes escucharon que una iglesia en Highland Park pronto abriría un refugio por las noches, rápidamente fueron a comprobarlo. Después de todo, su única opción era continuar durmiendo en el piso de un baño público del parque Sycamore Grove.
Las bancas de la Iglesia All Saints Episcopal les dio la bienvenida con un saco de dormir, una almohada y algunos artículos de aseo.
La pequeña cocina improvisada les ofrece comida caliente mientras que ven películas en el proyector de la iglesia.
Read this article in English: Winter Shelter Opens in NELA
Han pasado más de dos semanas desde que las hermanas comenzaron su ritual nocturno para conseguir una banca en la iglesia—una mejora ante el aire libre y el piso de un baño.
“Es mucho mejor que dormir en el frío”, dice Hope, quien no quiso dar su apellido, de 56 años de edad. Las hermanas fueron de las primeras seis personas en obtener la admisión al refugio de la iglesia cuando se abrió el primero de diciembre.
En pocos días, el Centro de Acceso de Invierno estaba completamente lleno y algunas personas han sido rechazadas, dijo Rebecca Prine, directora voluntaria de Recycled Resources for the Homeless una organización sin fines de lucro de beneficencia pública en el noreste de Los Ángeles.
“Todo ha ido muy bien y nuestra pequeña comunidad está prosperando”, Prine le dijo a EGP. “Confiamos en la generosidad de otros en la comunidad”.
En septiembre, el alcalde Garcetti y los miembros del consejo de la ciudad declararon “estado de emergencia en la falta de vivienda” y comprometieron $100 millones para proporcionar vivienda permanente y transitoria a los necesitados.
Han pasado meses y activistas a favor de los indigentes se han impacientado ante la lenta respuesta de la ciudad.
Las temperaturas están bajando y las tormentas de El Niño están en camino, dijo Prine, explicando que Recycled Resources tuvo que intervenir después de no ver ninguna acción por parte del Consejo de la Ciudad.
Los consejos vecinales locales, negocios y voluntarios colaboraron para encontrar un lugar para sus vecinos indigentes. El reverendo W. Clarke Prescott de la Iglesia All Saints Episcopal aceptó abrir la iglesia como un refugio temporal de invierno.
La iglesia cuenta con espacio para 30 personas por noche. Hay un pequeño espacio en el segundo piso para las personas con niños. Las mascotas también son bienvenidas.
Pero se necesita más ayuda, dijo Prine, criticando a las autoridades municipales por no actuar.
Representantes de la Agencia de Servicios para Desamparados de Los Ángeles (LAHSA) visitaron el refugio para evaluar su elegibilidad para fondos financieros.
En el conteo del 2015, LAHSA identificó más de 25.000 indigentes en la ciudad de Los Ángeles. En todo el Condado, la indigencia ha aumentado un 12% desde el conteo de 2013, de 39.461 a 44.359.
El lunes, la portavoz de LAHSA Kelli Pezzelle le dijo a EGP que la iglesia no cumple con los requisitos de las normas de seguridad de la agencia. Entre los problemas, las bancas son demasiado estrechas para ser utilizadas como camas y no hay extinguidores, dijo Pezzelle.
La agencia rechazó esta semana la solicitud de financiamiento para el Centro de Acceso del invierno, pero revirtió su decision el miércoles.
Según el portavoz del concejal Cedillo Fredy Ceja, su jefe envió una carta a LAHSA instando a la agencia a que reconsidere su decisión “dada la urgente necesidad de un refugio inmediato”.
La carta de Cedillo señaló que la iglesia “es el único refugio actualmente disponible para los indigentes del noreste de LA y el apoyo de LAHSA en este sitio ampliará el alcance de los servicios disponibles en la zona”.
Despues de la reversión de LAHSA, Cedillo dijo que “inmediatamente presentó una moción para poner el centro en la lista de refugios de invierno, asegurando protecciones bajo la crisis de refugios. Esto les permitirá obtener fondos de LAHSA y operar durante la temporada de invierno”, dijo el concejal en un comunicado de prensa.
El concejal José Huizar también intervino para apoyar el centro, obteniendo la aprobación del consejo que le permite transferir $20.000 en fondos discrecionales de su oficina para el refugio.
El miércoles el consejo de la ciudad también aprobó la moción que Cedillo introdujo el martes pidiendo al Departamento de Recreación y Parques que abra inmediatamente la Armería Bridewell en Highland Park—que se encuentra vacante—para servir como un refugio de invierno.
La petición de Cedillo se produce después de la aprobación del consejo de la moción del concejal José Huizar para asignar $12.5 millones de “ayuda inmediata para los indigentes, rápido realojamiento y refugios de invierno” en toda la ciudad.
El financiamiento incluye $10 millones para subsidios de “Realojamiento Rápido” para casi 1.000 indigentes para ayudarles con el alquiler o los costos de la mudanza. Los fondos restantes incrementarán camas en albergues en este invierno en más de un 50%—a un total de 1.300. Estas camas se destinarán a los que viven a orillas del río de Los Ángeles en Tujunga y Arroyo Seco.
“Mientras que parte de este dinero ayuda a preparar la infraestructura a largo plazo para hacer frente a la falta de vivienda, la mayor parte del dinero es para acciones inmediatas para ayudar a la gente a que no estén en las calles”, dijo Huizar.
El refugio se ha mantenido abierto con el apoyo de la comunidad. Los Consejos Vecinales de Highland Park y Eagle Rock han aprobado fondos para el centro: $1.000 y $4.000, respectivamente.
Aunque todo el mundo en el noreste de Los Ángeles está hablando de la falta de vivienda, nadie está haciendo nada al respecto, explicó el presidente del Consejo Vecinal de Eagle Rock, David Greene.
“Las Juntas Vecinales pueden y se deben ir a la vanguardia en temas que son demasiado políticos o demasiado locales para que el ayuntamiento y el alcalde los enfrenten de una manera oportuna”, le dijo a EGP. “Entonces, mientras que la ciudad de Los Ángeles busca cómo encontrar y gastar los millones de dólares en su ‘guerra contra la falta de vivienda’, el ERNC vio una manera de hacer algo acerca de la situación inmediatamente en el noreste de LA”.
Las personas donan comida caliente, ropa, libros y alimentos para mascotas; voluntarios manejan el refugio que esta abierto de 7pm a 8am.
Para los afortunados en conseguir un sitio para pasar la noche en la iglesia, este se convierte en un refugio seguro y cálido del frío invierno.
Cada noche, la voluntaria Nereida Vázquez da la bienvenida a los residentes del refugio y a veces pasa la noche como auxiliar. Como ex drogadicta y víctima de violencia doméstica, Vásquez dice que sabe de primera mano el valor de tener un lugar para dormir, ya que ella fue indigente y el departamento de servicios a familias le quito a sus hijos para dárselos a su madre.
Se siente muy bien estar ahora en un lugar donde se ayuda a los necesitados, le dijo a EGP.
Recycled Resources espera vincular a los participantes a los servicios de apoyo que necesitan para mejorar su situación antes de que el refugio temporal cierre en marzo.
Mónica Alcaraz, voluntaria con Recycled Resources y presidente de la junta vecinal de Highland Park, le dijo a EGP que evalúan la situación de cada visitante al refugio y le recomiendan la asistencia adecuada.
“Los casos son diferentes, algunos de ellos quieren solicitar una vivienda, otros necesitan documentación básica como una [identificación] o la tarjeta del seguro social”, dijo.
“Estoy orgullosa del trabajo que hemos sido capaces de hacer como comunidad y para nuestra comunidad”, dijo Prine.
Según Hope, Recycled Resources la ha ayudado a ella y a sus hermanas a solicitar para la vivienda de Sección 8 y esperan ser aceptadas antes del cierre del refugio.
“No somos malas personas, simplemente vivimos en las calles y necesitamos ayuda”, dijo con sentimiento de tristeza.
“Pero sé que pronto voy a salir de esta situación”.
Para saber más acerca del refugio y como ayudar visite www.recycledresources.org.