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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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L.A. Mayor Signs Camping Ordinance Aimed At Restricting Homeless Encampments

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on Friday aimed at restricting homeless encampments in certain areas of the city.

The ordinance, which is set to take effect 30 days from the signing date, bans camping near “sensitive” facilities including within 500 feet of schools, daycares, parks and libraries, according to the  L.A. City Council agenda.

In addition, the measure also restricts sitting, lying, or sleeping as well as storing, using, maintaining and placing personal property in any public right-of-way such as ramps, driveways or bike lanes, among others.

On Wednesday, the council voted 13-2 to approve the measure before Garcetti’s signature. 

Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voiced opposition to the ordinance, with Bonin recalling his own struggle with housing.

“Some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the shop, I slept on the beach. I cannot tell you how much turmoil is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where to sleep,” Bonin said. “I cannot tell you how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep.”

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the measure helps regulate shared public spaces while “acting with compassion and purpose” to help people experiencing homelessness.

“This ordinance establishes fair and clearly defined rules for how sidewalks in Los Angeles are regulated — while linking those rules to a comprehensive, compassionate strategy for street engagement that will establish reasonable pathways to positive outcomes and, ultimately, permanent homes,” O’Farrell said.

In order to enforce the new order, the City Council has to take action through a resolution to designate a certain area for enforcement, according to the ordinance.

The city plans to send out “street engagement teams,” along with law enforcement, to assist those experiencing homelessness in the designated encampment by providing connection to services, including interim housing. 

Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report outlining the number of shelter beds available across the county.

The number of homeless shelter beds in the L.A. region has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity, according to the agency.

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds — less than half of the estimated 66,000 people on the street countywide. 

The previous Homeless Count was conducted before the pandemic, with many housing experts and community members reporting an increase in the unhoused population in the past 18 months. 

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L.A. Homeless Shelter Capacity Up 57% In Three Years, Still Less Than Demand

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Tiny-Home-Village-Homeless-Shelter-North-Hollywood-Los-Angeles-1-1
Devon Miller / The Valley Post

The number of homeless shelter beds in Los Angeles has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity. 

The 2021 Housing Inventory Count and Shelter Count, released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Wednesday, shows the nightly shelter capacity in the L.A. area has grown despite challenges faced by the pandemic. 

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds, a 57% increase over the last three years. The agency also reported 33,592 permanent housing options, an increase of 16% over the same period.

Through “unprecedented coordination” and a critical influx of state and federal emergency funding, the L.A. region’s rehousing system’s response to COVID-19 saved lives, according to  Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA.

“We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness,” Marston said in a statement. 

The Los Angeles region needs to build a more balanced system with more housing options. A balanced rehousing system has five permanent housing exits for each shelter bed; the Los Angeles system is closer to one-to-one, according to the executive director. 

The Housing Inventory Count is a census of all interim and permanent housing options in the homeless rehousing system at a given point-in-time. This year, the Housing Inventory Count occurred on Jan. 27.

LAHSA reported these results despite the global pandemic causing a considerable strain on its shelter supply. 

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, all of Los Angeles County’s congregate shelters had to decrease their bed count through a process called decompression. 

However, strategic investments by the federal, state, and local governments through Project Roomkey and Project Homekey helped make up for the loss of capacity, according to the agency.

The Shelter Count revealed that there were 17,225 people in a shelter on the night of the count, which is virtually unchanged from the previous year. 

LAHSA cited that without the addition of 2,357 Project Roomkey beds and 497 Project Homekey beds, there could have been a more significant drop in the shelter count due to decompression.

Following the advice of public health officials, LAHSA did not conduct an Unsheltered Count in 2021 to protect the 8,000 volunteers needed to complete the Count each year from COVID-19. The agency is planning to resume the Unsheltered Count in 2022.

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Home Prices In San Fernando Valley Reach New High, Median Nearing $1 Million

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Los Angeles Homes

The median price of San Fernando Valley homes sold during June reached a record high while sales soared 56.9% and the number of properties listed for sale lingered at low levels.

The median price was $955,000, up 28.9% from June 2020, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR).

June was the fourth consecutive month with the median above the $900,000 benchmark.

“Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that the San Fernando Valley would see the median home price inching toward $1 million,” said Diane Sydell, president of the association in a statement. “Now it seems inevitable, especially with today’s wealth of buyers, dearth of inventory, and heated competition over virtually every listing.”

The condominium median price for June was $519,000, up 12.8% from June 2020, but 3.9% below the record high $540,000 set this April.

A total of 554 single-family homes closed escrow during June, up 56.9% from a year ago and 11.5% ahead of May’s tally. It was the first month this year above 500 sales and the highest monthly total since June 2018.

The statistics for condominium sales were not as dramatic, in part because of the extremely limited supply of condominiums listed for sale, according to SRAR.

There were 725 active home and condominium listings at the end of June, the first month above 700 listings this year.

“The market has been overheated and buyer fatigue may be a factor going forward,” said Tim Johnson, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many buyers are weary of competing with unseen competitors and losing to a higher bidder even when they come to the market fully prepared to buy. ”

That may translate in buyers being a bit more cautious, which when combined with the
reopening of the economy may yield a slowdown in sales and a few more listings.

Yet Johnson stressed that a “few more listings” doesn’t go far, even if some buyers are starting to take a bit longer to jump into the market.

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