Christina Cyr goes to college and works two jobs. But she is barely staying afloat.
Divorced six years ago, the mother of four kids — ages ranging from 9 to 18 — struggles to cover the rent and other expenses.
“I live in North Hills,” said Cyr, 38. “There was a rape in our laundromat and, with three teenage daughters, I’m afraid. But I can’t afford to move to a better neighborhood.”
Along with safety, her constant worry is keeping a roof over their heads. She pays $1,234 rent on a two-bedroom apartment and “I’m perpetually behind,” Cyr said. Her children occupy the rooms. She sleeps on a mattress in the living room.
She paid what she could from every paycheck, but recently received a “pay or quit notice” — essentially evicting her.
But Cyr and her family are getting a welcomed break.
She and her family will get a three-bedroom apartment in the brand new Moonlight Villas, a state-of-the-art, completely furnished 27-unit complex in Pacoima that offers permanent housing to homeless young adults (18-25), and single mothers with children.
The complex, which officially opened on Oct. 15, is run by Penny Lane Centers, a nonprofit agency that provides services and housing for more than 3,500 abused and neglected children, foster youth and families in Los Angeles County.
Two of Cyr’s children have been receiving psychiatric services at Penny Lane, and the organization knew of her struggles.
Those persons chosen to live in Moonlight Villas, located along Osborne Street near the Hansen Dam Recreation Center, pay 30 percent of their monthly income — much less than what Cyr currently pays.
“This is a blessing, what they’re doing for us,” said Cyr, while checking some of the units during the official opening.
The affordable apartment complex was built by the Los Angeles Housing Partnership. The $12.3 million cost was financed through a combination of federal housing tax credits, tax-exempt multi-family housing revenue bonds issued by the City of Los Angeles, and state Multifamily Housing Program funds, as well as state housing credits and private investment.
Penny Lane Centers’ CEO and founder Ivelise Markovits said, “a lot of families will have shelter now and a safe place to live.”
Like “Alondra,” a 34-year-old mother of two girls, ages 12 and 14. A victim of domestic violence, Alondra (not her real name) and her daughters were living in a transitional shelter for the past two months. She doesn’t have any family in this country, and lost her job.
She will live in one of the new apartments.
“It’s very pretty. I feel very safe here, and it gives me the opportunity to keep going forward,” said the shy woman.
Cyr and Alondra are lucky. There are already 20 families on the waiting list to live at Moonlight Villas, according to Ingrid Hines, director of permanent and transitional housing services for Penny Lane Centers.
Homeless Numbers In SF Valley
Of the 44,359 homeless people found in Los Angeles County this year, Markovits noted that 5,200 of them are in the San Fernando Valley.
“(Homelessness) is a great social ill we’re facing today,” she said.
The Los Angeles City Council recently announced a $100 million commitment to address homelessness. But it’s committee on the issue has become aware of potential obstacles. State law allows local governments to declare a shelter crisis in order to quickly build housing. But residents could file lawsuits claiming proper procedures weren’t followed under the California Environmental Quality Act.
That wasn’t an issue for the Moonlight Villas.
The three-story complex features, among other amenities, a full-time three-member staff to work with residents, and a full-time property manager. There’s a courtyard with some trees, a couple of benches and two barbecue grills. It also has a laundromat, on-site parking and a community room.
Residents will receive job development and living skills. Social workers will be available.
“Twenty-six families are going to call this place home,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes at the grand opening.
Helping the homeless, Fuentes said, is not simply about putting a shelter over their heads. “it’s about filling the necessities of life. Some of the necessities of life are being filled right here,” he noted.
A New Beginning
“We have people who’ve been living on the streets, in shelters, some in their cars. A good portion don’t have anything,” said Ingrid Hines, director of Housing for Penny Lane Centers.
Marvin Hernandez and his family fit into this category.
In April, his apartment in Panorama City was one of eight units ravaged by fire. “We lost everything. There was nothing to save,” Hernandez said.
“From one day to the next, we were left on the streets,” said Hernandez’ wife, Telma de Leon.
The parents and their three children, ages 7,12 and 16, managed to stay in a motel for three weeks. Since then, they’ve paid $650 a month to sleep in the living room of a home.
That’s about to end. The family will move into a spacious, three-bedroom apartment in Moonlight Villas.
“It’s a little far to take the kids to school,” said Hernandez, a construction worker. “But the kids are going to have their own room and we’re going to be much better.”
“We’re going to be able to start our life again,” de Leon said.