Bridge Housing Facility Breaks Ground in Hollywood

City Council Member David Ryu speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new bridge housing facilty in Hollywood. Photo from CD4 press release.

As so many people are coming or going home for the Thanksgiving holiday (see this flight tracker for a stunning visual representation), it’s wonderful to be able to report that ground was broken last week on a new facility to provide temporary “bridge” housing for 30 homeless women in Hollywood.

Last Wednesday, City Council Member David Ryu joined other community dignitaries in the ceremony to launch the project at 1403 N. Gardner Street, the former Gardner Street Library, which is owned by the City.

A rendering of the Gardner Street bridge housing facility, which will retain the original facade of the former Gardner Street Library.

According to a press release issued by Ryu’s office:

The project, expected to be completed by late summer of 2019, will include 30 beds for women experiencing homelessness, who will work with case managers to transition into long-term housing. Renovation work will primarily take place inside the building, with the original facade and exterior trees on the City-owned former library remaining in place.

“This project is something we’re extremely proud to work on at the Bureau of Engineering, and it’s just one of the many projects we are involved in that address homelessness across the City of Los Angeles,” City Engineer Gary Lee Moore said. “We’re looking forward to getting the project done and opening the doors to the residents next year.”

Women represent some of the fastest growing subsets of the homeless population. In 2017, more women and children lived on the streets of Los Angeles than in any previous year, and both groups face higher risk of victimization living on the streets or in traditional shelters.

“Women and women-led families are some of the most vulnerable and fastest growing subsets of the homeless population,” Sarah Dusseault, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Vice Chair, said. “Thanks to L.A. voters and unprecedented collaboration across the County, we have resources and a plan that’s working to address the homelessness crisis. As a community, we must continue supporting projects like this to help our neighbors build a more secure and stable future and reduce homelessness in our region.”

While the Gardner Street does provide temporary (or “bridge”) housing while more permanent shelter is sought by case workers), it’s worth noting that the project is not, according to CD4 Communications Deputy Mark Pampanin, a part of either Mayor Eric Garcetti’s A Bridge Home initiative, or the commitment by Los City Council members, passed in March of this year, to provide 222 units of supportive housing in each of their districts by July 1, 2020. Pampanin told the Buzz that this project was actually proposed before either of those initiatives was created, and it is not receiving funding from the Bridge Home initiative.  Also, while the Bridge Home facilities will be temporary (designed to remain in place for just three years, and then retired as new housing is created), the Gardner Street facility is designed to be permanent.

That said, however, efforts to find locations to fulfill those other commitments are ongoing, and while Ryu and several other Council Members have proposed additional sites to fulfill the commitments, many of those efforts have run into resistance from the communities that would be home to the proposed facilities.

For example, Ryu’s recent efforts to launch another bridge housing facility in Sherman Oaks have yet to succeed (one proposed site has been dropped, and access to several others is not assured).  While many homeless and housing advocates rallied for the projects, other community groups threatened to recall Ryu if he pursued at least one of the options.

As more proposals for bridge housing sites roll out, however, the questions about them seem to grow, and we’ve heard many people wondering what “bridge housing” means, how locations are being chosen…and what the facilities will include.  Very briefly, the sites – which are all intended to be temporary – are specifically designed to help homeless individuals who already reside in the communities where the facilities are located (they will not bring new homeless people into the area).  Also , the facilities are not simply new places for homeless individuals to pitch tents. Instead, they offer their own shelter, with electricity and running water, and will be fully staffed, 24/7, with security and people who can help connect individuals to housing, mental health, and addiction services, to help get them off the street for good.  For even more information, here’s a handy guide from the Mayor’s office:

FAQ: ANSWERS ABOUT BRIDGE HOUSING FROM THE MAYOR’SOFFICE

Why was my neighborhood selected for bridge housing?
If we’re going to end homelessness, we need to create solutions in every community — which is why the Mayor’s budget funds temporary emergency housing in all 15 Council Districts. Each temporary emergency housing site will be selected based on its proximity to dense homeless encampments. These sites are specifically designed to serve the homeless population that already lives in your community, and will help clean up encampments in your neighborhood. Every Council District that builds temporary emergency housing will receive additional sanitation and LAPD HOPE Team funds to restore spaces that were previously encampment sites into safe, clean, public passageways.

Who is going to live in the new housing?
The City is deploying teams of outreach workers to engage homeless Angelenos who live around the A Bridge Home site to ensure that people moving into the temporary emergency housing are already residents of the neighborhood. The only qualification for people to move in is their proximity to the site. Each site is specifically designed to support the needs of the population nearby — whether they are women, men, or senior citizens. Everyone will have their housing needs assessed as they come on-site, and their case manager will work with them to move them into a more permanent solution.

Will A Bridge Home bring homeless people into my neighborhood?
No. This temporary emergency housing is designed specifically to serve people who live in encampments in the community surrounding the site, who will be pre- identified during a period of outreach. The City is bringing in additional sanitation and enforcement services to ensure that the streets surrounding the sites remain safe and clean.

How are you deciding where to put the bridge housing?
The City is primarily looking at lots it already owns — that are at least 20,000 square feet in size and located near dense homeless encampments. But before a site is officially chosen, it is assessed by engineers to ensure that it’s an appropriate place to put temporary housing, and that it’s equipped with the necessary water, power, and sewage connections.

What will the sites look like?
Each council district is committed to creating a site that reflects the spirit and aesthetic of the neighborhood where it stands. They will be designed to incorporate the input of service providers, to optimize access to services and create a comfortable community space that helps clients stabilize and get back on their feet. The structures themselves will be trailers or platformed spaces covered in canvas.

How long will they be open?
Three years.

What are the hours of operation for A Bridge Home sites?
The sites are operated 24 hours a day; 7 days a week, with staff and security on site at all times.

How long do you expect people to stay in the bridge housing?
Our goal is to move people out of the shelters and into more permanent housing as quickly as possible — meaning that beds could turn over as many as four times in a year. But how long someone stays in the temporary emergency housing is based on their need. The sites will be staffed with housing navigators, mental health professionals, and anti-addiction specialists who will help clients get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

Will our neighborhood be less safe with this bridge housing?
No. All of the sites will be fully staffed with 24/7 on-site security, and City staff will closely monitor each site to help ensure safety and cleanliness. Our County partners are ramping up the deployment of outreach workers and supportive services to local homeless residents, to help them transition into the temporary emergency housing, and later into permanent homes. With the City’s additional funding for sanitation services, existing encampments will be converted into clean, safe public spaces for all residents to enjoy.

Are you going to have services on site?
Yes! The City and County have partnered to fund services for all residents of A Bridge Home sites that will help people move out of the temporary emergency housing and into permanent housing as quickly as possible. Each resident will have a case manager, as well as mental health, housing, and substance abuse support — not to mention three meals a day, storage, showers, restrooms, a place for pets, and 24/7 security.

Are residents of A Bridge Home sites required to be sober?
No. Entry to the site is determined by how close someone’s tent is to the site — not whether they’re sober. However, each site will be fully equipped with mental health and anti-addiction specialists who will help new residents start on the path to sobriety.

How are you going to make sure the encampments don’t come back?
The City is committed to making sure that the streets surrounding new A Bridge Home sites stay safe and clean. Homeless Angelenos will still be able to put up their tents between the hours of 9pm and 6am, but during the daytime, the City is establishing special enforcement zones to ensure that tents are taken down.

Are you criminalizing homelessness?
This effort is in no way intended to criminalize people who live on the streets. We cannot — and will not — arrest our way out of the homelessness crisis. People in desperate need of help should not be punished for their circumstances. The City’s priority is bringing people indoors — not issuing citations. However, if homeless residents choose not to take down their tents during the daytime, and receive citations as a result, the Mayor’s Office will connect them with the HEART program, which gives homeless Angelenos the option of doing community service or participating in substance abuse counseling in lieu of paying fines.

This doesn’t sound like a permanent solution. What about everyone who doesn’t get into A Bridge Home site?
Thanks to the voters of L.A., the City is getting to work building thousands of units of supportive housing for our most vulnerable homeless neighbors over the next decade. But people who are living on the streets tonight can’t wait for new housing to come online. They need help now. That’s why A Bridge Home is helping connect people to permanent solutions today.

How else can I help my homeless neighbors?
No one can do everything to solve homelessness, but everyone can do something. The most important thing you can do is say “yes” to supportive housing and bridge housing in your community, and help educate your neighbors about the critical importance of this work. You can also learn more about how you can help at LAMayor.org/HelpHomelessAngelenos

[Note:  this story was updated after publication to correct information about the Gardner Street facility NOT being part of either the Mayor’s “A Bridge Home” initiative, or the City Council’s commitment to 222 units of supportive housing per Council District.]

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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