A homeless shelter that had been operating for 30 years out of a former motel and bar completed its transformation this week into a sunshine-filled campus that will soon begin offering health, housing and other services to thousands of people in the San Fernando Valley who are now living on the streets or in shelters.
The new LA Family Housing campus clusters together a family center, shelter and permanent housing with office space for job counselors, housing navigators, legal service staff and other partners.
The close proximity of a range of services and housing means that instead of needing to take a bus to get to a doctor’s appointment, it might only be a short walk to an exam room in another part of the campus.
More about The Irmas Family Campus
Looking at the pressing shortages of low-income housing in each and every state in the country, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that NIMBY homeowners are winning the fight against new housing, and especially against affordable housing. But there’s one potential foe that reactionary homeowners are ill-equipped to dominate: their own neighbors. Other homeowners, that is, who have elected to house Section 8 voucher-holders in their backyards.
That’s the proposal by LA-Más, an urban-design nonprofit in Los Angeles, and other organizations involved in The Backyard Homes Project. Led by designer Elizabeth Timme and public-policy expert Helen Leung, LA-Más has previously worked on placemaking projects and convenience-store redesigns that highlight healthy food options. Now, Timme, Leung, and their partners hope to finance and build backyard homes, or accessory dwelling units (ADUs), for homeowners who agree to rent them initially to Section 8 voucher-holders for a minimum of five years.
Michael B. Jordan and WWE star Ronda Rousey were just two of the powerhouses that gathered in Hollywood Thursday night for the LA Family Housing’s annual fundraising celebration.
The live-auction event, which brought together hundreds of top industry executives, philanthropists and government partners, aimed to raise $2 million for LAFH, which builds permanent housing and supportive services for the city’s homeless. In a rallying effort to meet the event’s goal, Jordan and Rousey, alongside families directly impacted by LAFH’s services, took the stage to express the importance of the non-profit’s work.
“I learned at a very young age that people who own less are not less than,” Jordan said on stage. “The people who we help should not be defined by what they lack. Homelessness is not an identity or the result of someone’s mistakes. It is a result of a broken system, people falling through the cracks, racism and discrimination, a lack of affordable housing, and years of unfair pay.”
The “Black Panther” star wasn’t the only one to touch on the stigma attached to homelessness. Blair Rich, president of worldwide marketing at Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, and actor PJ Byrne, the event’s emcee, also pointed to misperceptions of the homeless as one of the leading challenges facing the community.
“So many people look at homeless people and are like, ‘Just pull yourself up from your bootstraps, go get a job, and get off the street.’ That is not the answer,” said Byrne. “For so many people it happens because of medical bills. They get certain diseases, they’re bed-ridden and can’t pay their rent so they find themselves on the streets with their children. And sometimes you just need that helping hand to get off the streets into a home, reboot, and start your life again.”
According to Rich, who’s chaired the annual fundraiser for the past ten years, such a reboot can be made possible through an innovative model that successfully moved over 2,000 people into permanent housing in the last year. LAFH has 24 properties across Los Angeles, and a campus opening next month offering more than just housing. “I can’t stand the injustice that the stigma of homelessness brings with it which is that it’s an unsolvable problem and people are just trained to look away and people don’t think there’s a solution,” Rich said. “It’s not like a disease without a cure — we actually do know what to do so we have the model and it’s building permanent housing and matching that housing with supportive services like health care, tutoring and job training.”
Bringing together stars such as Jordan and Rousey is one way LAFH brings more attention to the city’s homeless crisis, said Mark Ridley-Thomas, the LA County Supervisor and the honoree of the night.
“I am just very proud that they are here because they get it,” Ridley said when asked about Hollywood’s involvement with the organization. “And many of them have their own journeys, their own stories. Some of those who we celebrate as celebrities have themselves been homeless.”
Rousey spoke of her own tumultuous beginnings in her speech, recounting the times she had to sleep in her car due to instability in her home life. “Like many others here tonight, I was not born into money or privilege,” Rousey said. “I spent more than enough nights sleeping in my car but I was lucky and I found a way to work myself up the economic ladder.”
The Olympic medalist ended her speech on a high note before the night’s bidding began, though. “I believe in advantageous disadvantages,” she said. “There is power in reaching our lowest lows because it not only shows us what we’re capable of enduring but also what we have the ability to rebuild ourselves from. I believe that rock bottom is the most solid foundation from which to build your life.
Feb 13, 2019
Stephanie Klasky-Gamer describes LA Family Housing’s Prevention & Diversion programs, and process for placing housing throughout the city, which has an unprecedented rate of community acceptance. You’ll also hear Stephanie’s experience with a woman who had come the end of her options, but who is now flourishing thanks in part to an individualized approach that determines what is needed to become permanently housed.
These are anxious times for Stephanie Klasky-Gamer and the people her organization, LA Family Housing, helps lift out of poverty and homelessness.
Throughout the 35-day government shutdown, the chief executive worried that some 400 families — or about 1,600 people — wouldn’t be able to stay in their federally subsidized houses and apartments, and that LA Family Housing wouldn’t recoup the $250,000 it had spent to prevent mass evictions from the federal government.
And now that the government has reopened, she is worried that another shutdown will put those same tenants at risk again and that landlords will be less willing to work with the poor and homeless people her organization serves.
JAN 23, 2019
On a night when temperatures dipped into the 40s in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti joined thousands of volunteers documenting the area’s homeless population.
The mayor was joined by other government officials at a permanent supportive housing facility in North Hollywood run by L.A. Family Housing. More than 7,000 volunteers are expected to participate in the annual documentation, which continues through Thursday.
Every day, hundreds of people in Los Angeles County work homeless outreach — building relationships with homeless residents, and working with them individually to enroll in programs and services already available for help. It’s a major part of LA’s anti-homelessness efforts, but they can’t end homelessness on their own, as KPCC’s housing reporter Matt Tinoco reports.
As vehicles scream down Burbank Boulevard, Eric Montoya of LA Family Housing pulls his car over and leads a group of outreach workers on a narrow path through thick bush. A clearing opens, revealing two treehouses along a creek. Nearby rows of tents line a creek, and trash piles high.
Beyond the tree-shaded comforts of suburban living, miles from the 20,000-square-foot mansions, the hilltop castles, the $40,000 private schools, and the gated glory, L.A. residents by the thousands live in motels, vehicles, shelters, shared homes and 400-square-foot garages.
The things I heard as a kid, and repeated to my own kids, don’t apply for a lot of L.A.’s public school students. There is no quiet place to do homework. There is no private space without distraction. Los Angeles kids, like their parents, make do.
This article is the third in a four-part series. Read the other articles here:
A $5 million gift from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ philanthropic fund will allow a San Fernando Valley-based organization to buy up property to temporarily house an additional 150 homeless families.
The funds will be used to buy property in the “greater Los Angeles area” to provide short-term housing “in the heart of residential neighborhoods, allowing each child to connect to community resources like schools and parks that are so critical while their families find stability,” said LA Family Housing CEO Stephanie Klasky-Gamer.
The nonprofit will then “leverage” the additional real estate “in order to build additional permanent housing for our participants,” she said.
September 6, 2018
LAFH Board Member Tony Salazar participated in a KPCC panel on housing affordability and homelessness in Los Angeles.
August 19, 2018
LA Family Housing was featured in an hour-long special that takes a look at homelessness in Los Angeles on Dateline NBC. Watch the episode by clicking the image below.
April 6, 2018
The Inspiration Award winner shared the stage Thursday night with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and first lady Amy Elaine Wakeland at the L.A. Family Housing Awards in West Hollywood.
At one point during his Inspiration Award acceptance speech, Dwayne Johnson choked up, forcing him to pause and say, "I see ... it's going to be one of those kind of nights."
And it was that kind of evening. A night during which two grown, high-profile men (Johnson and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti) chased away tears against the backdrop of an electric fundraiser that pulled in a record-setting $1.65 million for LA Family Housing.
February 27, 2018
“Homes end homelessness.” That was the simple and ultimately persuasive slogan of the Proposition HHH campaign in 2016. In November of that year, an overwhelming 77% of Los Angeles city voters opted to raise their own property taxes to pay for $1.2 billion in homeless housing — 10,000 units to be built over a decade. Politicians exulted in the win and vowed that after years of short-lived strategies and half-hearted measures, they would finally address the crisis with the resolve and the resources needed to bring it under control.
January 9, 2018
Even with the keys to his new studio apartment grasped tightly in hand, 73-year-old John Leroy McCullah was still trying to process what was happening.
The previous night, he was laying in a rain puddle on a Sylmar street corner. The next morning, mud still clinging to his sneakers, he signed paperwork to move into a newly built housing complex in North Hollywood.
After being homeless for 15 years, the thought of finally having a permanent roof over his head seemed to McCullah like something out of the surreal television show “The Twilight Zone.” A part of him was bracing for a rude awakening or sudden change in fortunes.
“I wish I could have said a lot of superlatives and everything,” he said, “but I’m in a state of shock.”
Exciting Measure H news: the County of Los Angeles will convert the Sylmar Armory from an emergency winter shelter into year-round bridge housing for women operated by LA Family Housing!
“We are proud to be involved in this important development to provide women experiencing homelessness access to gender-specific bridge housing in order to expedite their path into permanent housing,” said LAFH President/CEO Stephanie Klasky-Gamer. “The County's conversion of a winter shelter into new Bridge Housing shows their commitment to do things differently if we intend to see different results. The primary goal is to see women - and all people - permanently end homelessness in their lives.”
L.A. County considers another path on homelessness: prevention
The calls on the hotline reflected life at its messiest: A single mom who left her boyfriend and was living in a motel. An out-of-stater who came for a job that fizzled. A low-income family with medical bills and a three-day eviction notice.
The callers had one thing in common. They were not homeless — yet. When they reached the referral line at L.A. Family Housing in North Hollywood, the pained response once would have been, “If you wake up in your car tomorrow, call back,” said Kris Freed, vice president of programs at the nonprofit agency.
That’s because traditional services for homeless people — shelters, housing assistance and case management — have one fundamental requirement: that the recipient is verifiably homeless. Now, a new and largely unproven approach is emerging as a major element of Los Angeles County’s homeless initiative. Those drafting plans for the Measure H sales tax funds approved by voters in March have proposed spending more than $40 million over the next three years to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
While strong winds at Los Angeles Family Housing’s 18th annual Awards at first almost threatened to blow the whole event away, the humanitarian spirit of its attendees held strong as the evening came together beautifully. Ice Cube and Zach Braff were among many notable attendees Thursday night at The Lot in West Hollywood as LAFH raised funds and awareness to continue its fight against homelessness in Los Angeles.
Holly Marie Combs, Missi Pyle, and Cameron Boyce were among the other celebrities who walked the yellow carpet before enjoying food from several different Los Angeles restaurants including Button Mash and Trap Kitchen. Afterwards, guests made their way inside for the awards ceremony and charity auction. The event was initially planned to be located on the rooftop at The Lot, but windy weather forced organizers to improvise and move the proceedings to the ground floor, including the reception itself which was held in the parking garage.
MARCH 9, 2017
Los Angeles County voters on Tuesday gave the green light to a quarter-cent sales tax increase intended to raise an estimated $355 million a year to pay for an ambitious plan to battle homelessness.
The vote follows the approval last November of an L.A. city ballot measure to issue $1.2 billion in bonds to fund the construction of homes and shelters.
With the cash in hand, how should it be spent?
"It's the first step towards ultimate victory," said Rev. Andy Bales from Union Rescue Mission. "Don't feel like, 'Hey, we've crossed the finish line.'"
Stephanie Klasky-Gamer of Los Angeles Family Housing added, "Because it's all so new, it's a bit of building the plane as we're flying it that's going to happen."
Take Two talked with these two advocates for the homeless about how they would like to see taxpayers' money spent, and how the process will work.
February 28th, 2017
Tera is a single mother with two small boys who escaped homelessness thanks to help from L.A. Family Housing. She describes the hopeless and helplessness of having np place to live, and what it means to finally have an apartment she and her sons can call home. Featured in KCET's SoCal Connected Special: The Way Home.
January 5th, 2017
What's our best bet for breaking the cycle of family homelessness?
Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and CEO of LA Family Housing joined Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission in downtown L.A., and KPCC correspondent Rina Palta to talk about the solutions on the city, county and state levels, and whether they'll be enough.
RINA: WHEN WE HEAR THAT WE'RE AT THIS CRISIS POINT OF FAMILY HOMELESSNESS, MORE SO THAN IN THE GREAT RECESSION, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE POSSIBILITIES FUELING THIS?
Klasky-Gamer: It's always an economic crisis – a loss of hours in full-time work, someone going from a 40-hour a week job earning $10 an hour going down to 38, or it could be a two-headed household working and they still can't afford a typical apartment in Los Angeles. So I think there's always an economic crisis that's tied to family homelessness.
DECEMBER 25th, 2016
Rams' Tavon Austin, Robert Quinn bring holiday joy to single mother of six
LOS ANGELES -- Tavon Austin thought about his mother on Wednesday afternoon. He always does, but on this day it was different.
The Rams wide receiver was standing inside a four-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood called Sun Valley, nestled in the northwest section of Los Angeles. Austin and teammate Robert Quinn had spent more than $20,000 from their own bank accounts to furnish this place for a single mother named Rebecca Carter who had just been reunited with her six young children and was doing her best to put six years of periodic homelessness behind her.
Carter walked in, and her eyes lit up -- and Austin thought back to Baltimore, and Cathy Green, and all the odd jobs she worked to provide for four children, and the drive Austin felt to someday pay her back for it all.
"My mom was pretty young, and she did what she could do," Austin said. "We had six people in the house [his grandmother lived there, too], so I know how this feels. It put the drive in me to get to where I want to today. That’s how I looked at it, that’s how I approached it and that’s how I took it. Hopefully one of them little boys in there take it the same way that I took it. 'I’m going to get Mommy out of here. I’m going to get us out of here.' That’s what I did."