A former state armory in Sylmar that had been used as a winter emergency shelter has been converted into an 85-bed facility for homeless women to serve as a “bridge” from being on the streets to permanent housing.
The “Bridge Home” facility, located in the 12800 block of Arroyo Street and to be operated by the nonprofit LA Family Housing, will also offer gardens, a yoga studio, art therapy programs and mental health support for those selected to reside there. In addition, 15 of the 85 beds will be used for recuperative care and operated by Serenity Care Health.
“We know that 90% of women who find themselves in homelessness have largely been impacted by abuse or physical violence. So getting this facility operational, to me, is a beacon of light for women in the northeast Valley — those seeking refuge and an opportunity to get back on their feet,” said LA Councilmember Monica Rodriguez who, on Monday, July 20, joined LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and others in the official opening of the facility now known as “The Arroyo.”
“I’m proud of the collaboration that was involved to see this through and, even in the midst of a pandemic, keep moving the ball forward,” Rodriguez said. “We got it done.”
That collaboration for the purchase and conversion of the facility, along with the initial staff payroll included county, state and federal funds, Los Angeles county officials said.
“Four years ago, it was LAHSA’s (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s) ad hoc committee on women experiencing homelessness that shed light on the unique experiences and trauma women face while living unsheltered,” said Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and CEO of LA Family Housing. “This beautiful haven of The Arroyo, which will have an entirely female-identified staff, is designed to nurture and lift up the women living here.”
The 11,369-square feet facility, which rests atop 5.1 acres and cost $3.6 million to convert, will not be a walk-up shelter; all residents will be pre-screened and selected by LA Family Housing and LAHSA.
The residents will have 24-hour security, seven days a week, Rodriguez said.
“This is intended to be the ‘bridge’ to stabilize these individuals until we get them into permanent supportive housing,” she said. “It’s part of the pipeline to first get folks off the streets. This ‘bridge’ housing will be for an initial 90 days. But the truth of the matter is, you can get extensions, so you could be there 180 days maximum, and be matriculated into permanent supportive housing.”
Rodriguez, as well as Mayor Garcetti and the rest of the council, is wrestling with trying to reduce the still staggering level of homelessness throughout the city and county of Los Angeles. The 2020 count released in June by LAHSA estimated 41,290 people experiencing homelessness in the city — a 14.2% increase from last year at the same point. The estimated county total was 66,436 people, a 12.7% increase.
The health pandemic created by the coronavirus has exacerbated the situation,” Rodriguez said.
“My biggest concern right now is — as a result of the financial impact of COVID-19 — that we are going to potentially be seeing even larger numbers of families…becoming homeless as a result,” the council member said. “We’re doing everything to try and stop that from our emergency rental relief efforts to the other variety of relief efforts being put forth now. But…it’s undeniable, the economic impact that people are living through right now.
“We already have a homelessness crisis. We need to do everything possible to try and help make sure we don’t have more folks falling into homelessness as a result of the pandemic. But it requires everybody at the federal, state and local level — the county in particular — to really work together to help solve homelessness. Because it’s not just about providing the housing; it’s making sure, with federal assistance, that we don’t have people finding themselves in that circumstance to begin with.”
Garcetti, on Monday, said, “The Arroyo” is part of the city council’s attempt to have two dozen A Bridge Home facilities, totaling 1,800 transitional beds, open and operating in Los Angeles by the end of July.
Rodriguez said a 45-bed facility for veterans experiencing homelessness called the “Summit View” would soon open “right across the street from Hansen Dam” in Lakeview Terrace, and also permanent supportive housing in Sylmar.
City News Service contributed to this report.