First Los Angeles temporary homeless housing site was set to open this week

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The first shelter in what’s planned to be a citywide network of temporary housing sites for homeless people was unveiled Wednesday by city officials who said the facilities will help down-and-out residents get back on their feet.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council members were on hand at a new downtown “Bridge Home,” which will serve 30 men and 15 women who live in and around the area starting Sept. 10.

The buildings resembling trailer homes offer beds, three meals a day, community space, case management and mental health and addiction services. Similar shelters are planned for each of the 15 city council districts where homelessness has spread from downtown streets into suburban enclaves.

The Bridge Home program’s goal is to assist people in transitioning to permanent housing, officials said.

“The folks who are moving into this site are ready to put in the time it takes to heal, and they know that this is a place where they’ll be able to get back on their feet and move on to a permanent home,” Garcetti told reporters.

The first shelter located near the city’s historic center cost about $2.4 million to develop. It’s a short walk from neighborhoods where rows of tents erected by homeless people line trash-strewn streets in makeshift encampments.

The new project is part of a wide-ranging effort by Garcetti and other leaders to combat a homelessness crisis in the nation’s second-largest city.

Garcetti, who’s pondering a presidential run, has called the homelessness a humanitarian crisis. In April, he announced the city would spend $430 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1 on housing and other services to ease the long-neglected problem.

City Council President Herb Wesson said Wednesday that the shelters will allow the homeless to “believe that they too can have a second chance, a chance at being normal.”

The shelter in a city-owned parking lot near the El Pueblo Historical Monument includes additional trailers for hygiene services and space for on-site service workers. Some business owners in the zone frequented by tourists have expressed concern at homeless people being provided with city housing in the area.

Garcetti predicted much of the concern will evaporate after people understand that temporary bridge housing is different from other shelters in downtown.

The new shelter will have around-the-clock security and officials will monitor the site daily to help ensure safety and cleanliness, he said.

A 2018 survey found that more than 31,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles, including more than 23,000 living without shelter. Both figures fell slightly from 2017, but overall Los Angeles homelessness has grown by about 75 percent during the last six years.

The shelters are intended as a temporary solution to the problem while the city builds thousands of permanent units approved in 2016 by voters through Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure.

The bridge program was approved by the City Council, which freed up $20 million in budget funds for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The city is also expecting to receive $85 million from the state as a one-time emergency grant for homeless programs, some of which could be used for the Bridge Home program.

Homelessness has been increasing across the U.S. West. The surge in people living on the streets has put public health at risk, led several cities to declare states of emergency and forced local governments to spend millions on services.