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Homeless Population In Los Angeles County Increasing As Pandemic Continues

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Los Angeles County has seen a steady rise in the number of people experiencing homelessness over the past few years, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing a sharp increase.

While there are many shelters throughout the county, COVID-19 has created a wide variety of challenges for them. Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, a nonprofit organization operating nine locations throughout L.A. County, is one of the many places unhoused Angelenos rely on for shelter, COVID-19 testing and other services.

Hope of the Valley CEO Ken Craft said their shelters, such as the one located in Van Nuys, have had to reduce their housing capacity to 70% in order to comply with the new health regulations made necessary by the pandemic.

The organization’s manpower has also been affected, as shelters across the county have been forced to suspend their volunteer programs due to the current surge in cases.

Testing is performed on a weekly basis, with resources provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Craft said, “Testing depends on the Department of Healthcare Services. Once they inform us they will be conducting testing, we spread the word to everyone at our shelters.”

If anyone at a shelter tests positive for COVID-19, the entire shelter must enter a lockdown for 14 days in order to curb the spread of the virus.

“This creates a challenge for people staying at shelters, as many of them are employed and cannot afford to miss work for 14 days,” Craft said.

Due to the lockdown requirement, many of the shelter’s patrons are faced with a dilemma: stay at the shelter and risk losing their job or leave the shelter, unable to return until the lockdown is lifted.

The county has also seen an increase in the amount of time people are staying in the interim housing provided by shelters. Prior to the pandemic, the average time spent in interim housing was approximately four to six months. The recent economic downturn has led to longer stays before people are able to find permanent housing.

Despite these challenges, Hope of the Valley was able to add 185 beds in 2020. They are also expanding rapidly to meet the new demand and will be adding an additional 600 beds along with five new locations in 2021.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count conducted in January before the pandemic even hit, there were “66,436 people in Los Angeles County experiencing homelessness” representing a “12.7% rise from last year’s point-in-time count”.

The Homeless Count for 2021 was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

In its efforts to curb the increasing challenges created by COVID-19, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has partnered with Los Angeles County on Project Roomkey, which seeks to “protect high-risk individuals, prevent the spread of the deadly virus in communities, and protect the capacity of hospitals and the healthcare system” by providing secure hotel and motel rooms to vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness.

While the housing provided through Project Roomkey is temporary, lasting approximately three months, the county retains the option to extend the occupancy agreement due to the pandemic if necessary.

Other services, such as three meals a day and medical monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms are provided on-site at Project Roomkey locations.

There are several barriers to accessing the services provided by Project Roomkey, however.

Project Roomkey only accepts individuals over the age of 65 or those with preexisting medical conditions, and they must be referred by either a homeless services provider, health care provider, law enforcement or other service providers.

Hope of the Valley operates Thrift Stores throughout San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley and Simi Valley. To donate clothing or visit one of their stores, click here. Food and clothing donations are also accepted at their Pacoima office located at 11076 Norris St., Pacoima CA 91331.

Hope of the Valley relies heavily on donations and contributions from the community in order to operate. Those looking for more information or to donate, visit Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission

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Santa Clarita Gears Up For ‘Bike to Work Challenge’

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Santa-Clarita-Bike To Work Day
Photo Courtesy of the California Bicycle Coalition

The City of Santa Clarita invites local businesses and their employees to participate in the annual Bike to Work Challenge.

The week-long challenge begins Monday, May 10, through Friday, May 14. Residents are encouraged to take the online pledge to be entered into a raffle for free prizes.

The Bike to Work Challenge is a competition among Santa Clarita businesses to rally their employees to bike to work and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Businesses that are registered to participate and have the most participation in their size category will win a free lunch to a local restaurant of their choice, according to the City.

Interested businesses are required to designate a “lead rider” who will act as a point of contact for the organization in addition to registering their businesses for Santa Clarita’s Bike to Work Challenge. 

Lead riders should register online here and must submit a list of those at their company who participated by May 17 to Laura Jardine, City event coordinator for the Bike to Work Challenge, at (661) 255-4376 or ljardine@santa-clarita.com.

In place of pit stops, the City has extended the challenge to a week-long format, giving residents more opportunities to participate and win prizes, including cycling gear, gift certificates and more.

To encourage participants with longer commutes to participate, Santa Clarita Transit will be offering free local rides to anyone with a bike and/or helmet, according to the City.

Visit here to learn more about the Bike to Work Challenge. For additional information about upcoming cycling events, including the Hit the Trail Bike Ride, visit here.

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Third Free Catalytic Converter Etching Event To Be Hosted By SCV Sheriff’s Station

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catalytic-converter-theft.jpg
Photo by Seth Sawyers

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station is set to host a third free catalytic converter etching event this month after increased thefts in the area.

For the third installment of the event, organizers are offering more dates and an additional location are being offered so that more vehicles can be serviced, according to Deputy Natalie Arriaga, spokesperson for the station.

The SCV Sheriff’s Station, in partnership with Reeves Complete Auto Center and Canyon Muffler in Canyon Country and RG Brake & Alignment in Valencia, is scheduled to host the event on May 11, 18, 25, 26 and 27. 

“Help #GuardThatAuto by getting your vehicle’s license plate etched onto its’ catalytic converter,” station officials said in a statement. “Doing so helps deputies locate its original owner in the event it is stolen and recovered.”

In March, over a dozen people were arrested and 250 catalytic converters — valued at about $750,000 — were recovered in an operation on Wednesday, stemming from an investigation in Santa Clarita. 

In a proactive approach to lower catalytic converter theft, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Crime Impact Team (CIT) led a search warrant operation on March 10, centered in the City of Los Angeles, according to Arriaga.

“Theft of catalytic converters has been a growing trend in 2020, with a 400% increase throughout Los Angeles County, and a significant increase in the Santa Clarita Valley as well,” Arriaga said at the time.

Catalytic converters are attached to the exhaust system of a vehicle. They contain precious metals and can be “scrapped” for a quick profit, according to the spokesperson.

This event is offered to Santa Clarita Valley residents by appointment, with limited availability, based on a first-come, first-served basis.

Those interested in booking an appointment are encouraged to contact Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Borbon of Community Relations at ka1borbo@lasd.org. 

Appointments will only be scheduled by Deputy Borbon and not by the auto centers, according to station officials.

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L.A. County Public Library To Reopen 30 Additional Locations On May 10

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Los Angeles County Public Library

Los Angeles County Library announced this week it will reopen an additional 30 of its 85 libraries for select in-person service beginning May 10, as the county nears the “yellow” tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. 

The scheduled reopening will raise the total number of reopened libraries to 60 across L.A. County at 75% capacity, while also maintaining six feet of physical distance for customers.

“In preparation for reopening additional doors to the public, LA County Library is working diligently to ensure safety protocols are met and appropriate preventative measures are in place,” officials said in a statement. 

The additional libraries that are scheduled to reopen are part of a phased reopening plan that prioritizes library openings based on geographic location, building availability, and the ability to accommodate physical distance guidelines and Public Health protocols. The library has placed an emphasis on equity with special consideration for reopening libraries in underserved areas where residents prioritize in-person services.

The additional libraries that are scheduled to reopen starting May 10 include Acton Agua Dulce Library, Castaic Library and Topanga Library, among others.

Additional libraries across the county will be added to the library’s reopening plan.

On April 19, L.A. County Library reopened its first 30 locations including  Stevenson Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley, as well as Lancaster, and Quartz Hill in the Antelope Valley.

Outdoor programming for a limited number of participants will begin in early summer 2021 and will be available at select libraries. 

Sidewalk service and book drops will remain available at participating libraries. L.A. County Library continues to offer enhanced digital offerings, including a temporary digital library card to access eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, movies, online classes and more.

To view the current list of reopened libraries, visit the library reopening page here.

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