LA stands up 8 emergency homeless shelters against coronavirus pandemic, with more on the way – Daily News

on Mar27
by | Comments Off on LA stands up 8 emergency homeless shelters against coronavirus pandemic, with more on the way – Daily News |

“Have you eaten yet?”

Those were the first words that a Los Angeles city recreation and parks worker said to Christine Regier and her 14-year-old cat, Gigi, soon after they entered the Petit Park Granada Hills Recreation Center.

The worker, Daniel, did not skip a beat, when she mentioned she had a husband. The next thing he told her was, “Go get him, so I can feed him.”

And so she went back outside and got him. “He knew I was missing my sidekick,” she said.

Christine Regier and her cat ‘Gigi’ at the Granada Hills Recreation Center Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The pair have been staying at the center since last Thursday after it was converted to an emergency homeless shelter with medical personnel during the day, police presence, temperature checks and other features amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

For dinner that night, they served pizza from Dominos. “Who cares what it was,” the grateful Regier said. “They were feeding us.”

It was a promising start for Regier, who is homeless and had sought a roof over her head at one of the eight city parks facilities that were converted this past week into emergency shelters during the coronavirus pandemic.

For Regier, the shelter came at the right time. She and her husband of 27 years, who were hit by the 2008 recession and have struggled financially ever since, said she had been staying at a Van Nuys hotel through a county program called Housing for Health.

With the coronavirus pandemic prompting precautionary measures, that program instituted rules that limited them from being able to go in and out of the building frequently. Regier said she needed a place where she could still go outside to walk her cat.

And so they found the shelter after her husband’s case worker texted them information about it, she said.

Cots are spaced at least 6 feet apart at the Granada Hills Recreation Center Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The center has been converted in an emergency homeless shelter with medical personnel during the day, police presence, temperature checks and other features amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had announced a plan last week to convert city recreation centers quickly into shelters for homeless people, as an alternative to staying on the streets during a public health crisis. He is expected to follow that up with the addition of several hundred or so hotel and motel rooms, to serve as quarantine and isolation space for people who have symptoms or are sick with COVID-19.

While the initial numbers for the emergency shelters were grand, with the mayor saying 1,600 beds would be opened at 13 initial locations by the end of the weekend, they were later scaled down drastically  — to incorporate the six feet buffer needed to create enough social distance between cots.

And just eight had opened as of earlier this week. But those have filled to capacity, according to shelter operators and Garcetti. So plans are underway to open another five by the end of this weekend.

An informal survey of the shelter sites made by a reporter on Monday found that there was space for around 350 people at the eight shelters. Garcetti’s office and the city recreation and parks office did not respond to repeated attempts to get information about the new bed capacity, and to confirm numbers.

But a court filing on a case in which the plaintiffs alleged the city has done little over the years to provide shelter to thousands of people living on the streets, stated that the capacity is at 366 for the initial eight sites, which include recreation centers in the San Fernando Valley, Westwood, Hollywood and Watts.

The shelter in Granada Hills has space for 42 beds, each with a wool, army-issue blanket that are also commonly used at cold weather shelters. There are bathrooms, and a small dining area in a room that had served as a preschool classroom space prior to the pandemic.

Meals are served to 10 or fewer people at a time on tables wiped using industrial strength disinfectant, according to Regier and Craft.

And there is a room that serves as an isolation area for people who have a high temperature and other symptoms. A nurse wearing an N95 mask holds up a beeping scanner device that takes the temperatures from the forehead of anyone who enters the facility. If the temperature is in a normal range, people move quickly along.

Rich Graig stands by to check in homeless at the Granada Hills Recreation Center Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The center has been converted in an emergency homeless shelter with medical personnel during the day, police presence, temperature checks and other features amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Craft said the facility is sanitized frequently. “Honestly, it’s cleaner than my home,” he said. Plus nurses are on hand who can respond if someone experiences symptoms, he said.

Affixed to the door at the gymnasium’s entrance is the WiFi login and password for the site. Regier said she can’t take advantage of that because she does not have a phone. The places that provide the free government-issue phones — often called “Obama phones” — aren’t open during the pandemic, she said.

But perhaps there could be a television, so she can follow the news, she said. Or maybe the delivery of the Los Angeles Daily News each day. Regier said that when she first moved to the San Fernando Valley nearly 30 years ago, her husband who grew up in the area recommended she subscribe to that paper. She lived in Granada Hills until their house got red-tagged after the 1994 earthquake. Then she lived a few years in Sherman Oaks, after which she moved to Santa Clarita.

By Wednesday, the Granada Hills shelter was getting food delivered, not from the local pizza place, but from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Lunch was a salad with ham slices. Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs with cornbread on the side.

Oh, and the most important meal of the day, breakfast, was coffee cake, with milk and juice. “And lots of coffee,” said Ken Craft, the operator of the shelter. There could never be enough coffee.

One of the shelter residents, 59-year-old Antony Croo, said the Salvation Army brings a pot of coffee in the morning, but that quickly runs out. So he went out and bought more coffee for the shelter. Enough so that “we’ve got coffee all day,” he said.

But where was he able to secure such a large a supply during a pandemic? At the nearby dollar store, he said.

“Coffee is like a comfort thing,” he explained. “It makes people feel a little bit more calm. It’s something normal in a non-normal time.”

A coronavirus check sign at the entrance to the Granada Hills Recreation Center Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The center has been converted in an emergency homeless shelter with medical personnel during the day, police presence, temperature checks and other features amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Coffee is definitely on the list of things that Craft says people should consider donating to the shelter. Other items include clothing, especially undergarments, t-shirts, sweatshirts and socks. Snack items, too, as well as monetary donations, he said.

But if anyone has questions about what they might need at a given moment, he said they could call (818) 392-0020 to inquire. That is the number to Craft’s nonprofit, Hope of Valley, which is taking on the operation of the four recreation center shelters in the San Fernando Valley.

The Granada Hills shelter and one at the North Hollywood Recreation Center are already up and running, and two others, at the Woodland Hills and Northridge recreation centers, are also expected to be opening up soon, he said.

Hope of the Valley also operates the annual “winter shelter” in Pacoima that has now had its hours extended to September, due to the coronavirus pandemic. When the Granada Hills shelter filled up, some went to the Pacoima shelter, Craft said.

On Friday, the menu will switch over to Hope of the Valley’s own offerings from their central commissary, which now cooks meals for the Pacoima shelter, Craft said.

Craft’s organization had already been planning to build and operate in North Hollywood, beginning in June, when the call came to step in to operate some of the pandemic-prompted emergency shelters in the Valley.

He has long pushed for more emergency shelter space, particularly in the Valley where there had been only one year-round facility, amid a trend that has gone in a somewhat different direction.

More of the funding in recent years have been funneled toward permanent housing options, rather than shelters. While both types of roofs have been necessary, the attention had for a time shifted more to building affordable housing, particularly through Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure passed for that purpose.

But the coronavirus has changed many things. Despite the situation the world is now in, Craft appeared amazed on Wednesday at what he saw as the potential to help more people by taking advantage of what we already have amid a crisis.

“Here’s a park and rec center — they’re everywhere, and so to be able to retool them to be able to house the people that are experiencing homelessness, really is an incredible opportunity for retooling and reinventing ourselves, utilizing existing resources,” he said.

“They’re now manufacturing ventilators,” he said. “You see everybody coming together to do what has to be done to address the crisis.”

He noted that the mayor’s goal is to open up shelters at 42 recreation centers eventually.

Antony Croo at the Granada Hills Recreation Center Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Croo has been staying at the center since last Thursday after it was converted to an emergency homeless shelter with medical personnel during the day, police presence, temperature checks and other features amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)


Previous postPlanning in Case Many More Officers Sickened by Coronavirus – NBC Los Angeles Next postOrange County CEO Sounds Alarms on Hand Sanitizer Shortages – NBC Los Angeles


Los Angeles Financial times


Copyright © 2020 Los Angeles Financial times

Updates via RSS
or Email