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New Bridge Housing Facility In West San Fernando Valley Celebrated By City, County

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The Willows Canoga Park
Photo Courtesy of LA Family Housing

Mayor Eric Garcetti broke into song Friday during a virtual celebration for the grand opening of the West Valley’s first Bridge Housing site, which is meant to provide transitional housing to people experiencing homelessness.

The Willows, located at 7621 Canoga Avenue in Canoga Park, opened to residents on Feb. 1 and will provide them with resources including case management, space for animals and larger quarters for couples. The 75-bed facility is the first Bridge Housing facility to accommodate opposite-sex couples.

The facility was named “The Willows” for the Tongva nation, which nurtured’ the site and used to construct their homes out of willow branches, according to Los Angeles Family Housing’s Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, who said her organization received the blessing of Tongva Chief Anthony Morales to build the facility.

Garcetti joined Klasky-Gamer, Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl for a virtual celebration of the facility’s grand opening. Before his remarks, he broke into a rendition of “My Favorite Things.”

“Bob from the Council and Sheila from County, Stephanie KG from Family Housing, new beds for housing and mental health wings, these are a few of my favorite things,” he sang.

The site features 75 semi-private sleeping quarters in three wings — a men’s wing, a women’s wing and a couples wing, according to Family Housing’s Elda Mendez-Lemus and Kelsey Madigan, who provided a virtual tour of the facility.

“Speaking from a mental health model and trauma-informed care, it’s very important for couples to have physical touch and to be with their partners so we really wanted to embody that as we were designing these specific beds for couples,” Madigan said.

The facility was designed with several trauma-informed principles, including skylights for natural sunlight to help residents with mental health issues and depression. Residents are also able to bring emotional support and service animals with them to the facility, which has a cat and dog room outfitted with kennels and hammocks.

“These rooms will house dogs or cats when their participants are going to therapy appointments or job interviews, and things like that where they can’t bring them with them,” Madigan said. The outdoor area also features a dog run space and areas to bathe pets.

Each wing has a case management office with mental health specialists for therapy and other services.

Blumenfield and Kuehl worked together to create a plan for the county to purchase the site with help from a conditional grant from the city.

The project was funded through $1.3 million from the Mayor’s Bridge Housing program and $3 million from the state’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program. Following renovations from the county, the site is expected to provide at least 15 years of homeless services.

During the grand opening, Blumenfield and Kuehl spoke about much these resources are needed in the area.

“I’m proud that the Willows, as mentioned, will be the first citywide Bridge home that will accommodate couples, because we know that not allowing couples is a barrier, not allowing pets is a barrier, not being in close proximity is a barrier, feeling that a shelter is unsafe is a barrier,” Blumenfield said.With the Willows, all of these very real barriers are eliminated for the homeless people in the West San Fernando Valley, and that’s something we should proud of.”

Kuehl spoke about the difficult choices some couples face with so many housing facilities only offering services to one gender.

“So would you, in that moment of incredible vulnerability, actually leave a person you cherish and need most in your life for an interim housing bed. We don’t want you to have to make that choice,” she said.

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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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