By Bridget Duncan, Special to the Van Nuys News Press
VAN NUYS, CA — “Pops,” as Paul Read is known at the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission in Van Nuys, Calif., stands on the grounds of the 80-year old, California Mission-style, mint-colored Central Lutheran Church near a small vegetable garden with blue iron tables, metal peacocks and ceramic bunnies.
As a case manager for Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, Read is responsible for providing food, clothing and showers to the homeless participants he sees Monday through Friday, from 8 to 3 p.m. The participants can also receive food at the church every Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. With the Van Nuys courthouse nearby, Read tries to acquire social security cards, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, EBT cards and stimulus money for the people he helps.
Today, over half a million people in the U.S. live in some form of homelessness, 13,000 die every year, they have a life expectancy of 50 years, 89.7 percent of homeless persons are 24-years old or more, 16 percent are 50-60-years old, 3.2 percent are 62-years old or more, 20 percent are kids, 42 percent of street kids identify as LGBT, 58,000 students identify as homeless, 48 percent are white, 39 percent are African-American, 2.8 percent Native American, 13 percent Hispanic or Latino, 61 percent are male, 40 percent are veterans, 38.6 percent are disabled, 25 percent have mental health illnesses and 47 percent of unsheltered homeless are in California, according to PolicyAdvice.net.
Read understands the severe stress people can be subjected to while living on the streets. He calls it the trauma of “sleeping with one eye open.” When asked about issues surrounding interim housing versus permanent housing, Read doesn’t hesitate to answer.
“We need both,” Read said. “A lot of the people are scared.”
Ken Craft, the president and CEO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission since 2009, believes it’s inhumane to leave people on the street while they’re waiting for affordable or permanent housing. Craft said he would like to be a permanent housing developer in the future.
With that said, the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission offers interim housing, operating 13 shelters, two access centers and a job center. In 2020, they opened a navigation center, an 85-bed Bridge Housing Shelter and a 100-bed Bridge Housing Shelter in partnership with Los Angeles.
They also opened six COVID-19 emergency shelters and 36 housing trailers within Los Angeles City and Park Recreation Centers. In 2021, they expanded into the Antelope Valley and launched two Bridge Housing Shelters in the West San Fernando Valley and opened the very first Tiny Home Villages in Los Angeles. This will be followed by five more Tiny Home Villages.
Each Tiny Home is 64 square feet, has two beds, heat, air conditioning, windows, a small desk and a front door. On-site meals are provided as well as showers, storage, a yard for animals, a common visiting area, housing navigation and mental health services, job training and placement and case management.
On March 10, 2022, the former roller rink Skateland in Northridge will open as the newest shelter with 107 cubicle bedrooms from donations by the late Alex Trebek and other generous donors, and is part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “A Bridge Home” initiative. Garcetti stated to the LA Times that the plan has begun to fill a gap in the city’s homeless housing options.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Executive Director, Heidi Marston also told The Times, 75 percent of the homeless in the country exit shelters because they are free to come and go and there isn’t enough subsidized housing.
Read, who also runs a homelessness Facebook group called Passions, described as a group of people with a desire to reach those in desperate need of housing, various services, and most of all love, says he looks to Colorado as a role model. “There they open up empty buildings and house the homeless especially during the winter.”
“We should all be caring,” Read adds. “Come on L.A., why don’t we do that? Love thy neighbor.”
This story was written for UCLA and Van Nuys News Press by BridgetDuncan@usa.net