Mayor Karen Bass hosts members of the African American Mayors Association to address homelessness.
Continuing to uphold her commitment to helping eradicate homelessness in Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass recently hosted 18 Black mayors from across the country to discuss critical issues impacting metropolitan areas including the need to make our cities safer, energy efficient, and more affordable.
The convergence of Black mayors also homed in on ways to address the nationwide housing crisis by incorporating innovative housing strategies such as the use of modular construction as seen in the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village in Chinatown.
In 2018, L.A. County acquired four acres of property at 1060 North Vignes St., in Los Angeles, which was initially slated to be a men’s prison. In 2019, Supervisor Hilda Solis spearheaded the vote to cancel the prison contract in favor of building housing to help alleviate the homelessness crisis. In 2020, the global pandemic heightened the sense of urgency to expedite the project.
By Sept. 2020, contractors’ broke ground on the $57 million project, with $51 million provided by The CARES Act and another $6 million from Chair Solis’ First District Interim Housing Pool funds. Completed in just six months, the Village, which features 232 units, has been able to provide services for 853 people since opening on April 1, 2021.
“[Behind us] are The Twin Towers, the men’s central jail. It’s the biggest institution that has more people who should be in these types of housing units because they have mental health issues, substance abuse issues and many were homeless” said Solis during a recent site visit to the Care First Village.
Former State Senator Kevin Murray, president/CEO of the Weingart Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending homelessness in LA, served as the developer of the facility. He led the tour of the Black Mayors through the Care First Village where he spoke about the facility’s many amenities.
Each room is furnished with a mini fridge, microwave, and bathroom. Residents are provided three meals a day and there’s a laundry facility on-site in addition to fresh linens being supplied weekly. Additional wrap-around case management services include providing job leads, mental health and substance abuse service referrals as well as medical and dental services.
“[These amenities] help our residents to stay and receive the services that we provide to try and get them back integrated into society,” said Murray.
“You have to treat people with dignity which helps them to get back to being members of society,” he added.
Murray mentioned that many unhoused people often decline assistance if it means going into a facility without their pets. As such, the Hilda Solis Care First Village also accepts animals and provides food and veterinary care for the resident’s pets.
“Many of the people making homeless policies have never met a homeless person. You have to get your policymakers out into the streets to really understand the kind of decisions people make and what’s important to them in order to really help them get services” said Murray.
“Hopefully you all can use what we have going on here as models for your own cities,” he urged, speaking directly to the mayors.
Attendees accepted the call to action and shared how the experience inspired them. Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard of Mount Vernon, New York, and president of the African American Mayors Association told the Sentinel, “The tour of Skid Row was very enlightening. Many of us have homelessness in our communities, though not to this scale.
“But we’re seeing how Los Angeles is trying to be intentional in intervening, doing outreach to the public and trying to find innovative solutions like the Hilda Solis Care Center, that’s doing the work with compassion,” said Patterson-Howard.
“Prior to being the mayor, I was a social worker, so I understand this challenge very intricately and I’m appreciative of the comprehensive approach that Los Angeles and Mayor Bass is taking by not criminalizing people who need help.”
On the importance of bringing her mayoral colleagues to Los Angeles to see how the city is addressing the homelessness crisis, Mayor Bass told the Sentinel, “We’re all dealing with this issue to one degree or another, but if you’re going to bring about change, you have to come together.
“That’s the only way you’re going to get legislation passed and get the resources that are needed. So, I’m really proud to be a part of this group.”
With the nation seemingly on edge due to 2024 being a presidential election year, Bass also emphasized the importance of participating in local elections.
“Mayors are critical because you’re on the ground and no matter what happens, you’re held accountable. Every level of government is important and what I’ve been excited about over this last year is that we’ve been able to unite the city, the county, the state, and the federal government all on the same page, working to get Angelenos housed,” she noted.
Sharing her hope to continue to build these types of facilities, Supervisor Solis said, “Mayor Bass has been our biggest cheerleader. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to work with the mayor of L.A. and to know that she’s on the ground helping us and that we’re working together.
“These 232 units that can be moved if we have to expand. I hope with Mayor Bass and Metro we can buy more property, we’re thinking we could build another 200-300 units using the same concept.”
To learn more about the work Mayor Bass is doing in LA visit: https://mayor.lacity.gov