By Hunter Chase, Reporter
The County of Los Angeles opened a temporary homeless shelter in San Pedro on 122 W. 8th Street on March 2. The shelter has 40 beds and will be open for three years.
Harbor Interfaith was conducting outreach and even before the shelter opened, 15 people from the surrounding area had signed up to come inside.
“Those are people that Harbor Interfaith has already built a relationship with,” said Erika Velazquez, Harbor Area director for Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. “They’ve been talking to them and screening them.”
While most homeless shelters in the county have more men than women, this one will have 25 women and 15 men, said Ivan Sulic, field deputy for Hahn. Most of the people who told the outreach team that they were interested in accepting the shelter’s services are women.
“Women are more likely to be preyed upon, more likely to be subject to abuse and I think they see this as an opportunity to come inside, get services and get off the street,” Sulic said.
The amount of time people will stay at the shelter will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on what they need, Sulic said.
“People will stay here as long as they need to, until we can get them into permanent housing,” Sulic said. “That’s really what the endgame of all of this is, getting them into that next step.”
On average, it takes six to nine months to move someone into permanent housing, Sulic said.
“You have to find a subsidized unit, or you have to help someone get a job, get them stable and you have to find a willing landlord or a voucher that’s connected to a unit,” Sulic said. “It takes a lot of intense case management.”
The shelter’s case managers will be onsite every day, Sulic said. In addition to finding permanent housing, the staff at the shelter will be working to find employment for them and give them medical treatment if they need it.
The shelter will offer mental health services as well as a licensed vocational nurse onsite, Velazquez said. It will also offer treatment for substance abuse. In addition, they will be working with the Harbor Community Health Clinics.
The building that is being used is county property and does not need to be completely changed, but $300 thousand has been set aside by the county to pay for remodeling and refurnishing, said Liz Odendahl, director of communications for Hahn’s office. This does not necessarily mean the whole amount was spent.
Operating costs of the facility are estimated at $1.1 million per year, Odendahl said. This includes food, staff, utilities and the wraparound services offered at the shelter.
Transitioning the vacant building into a shelter only took six weeks, Velazquez said.
The building will not have individual rooms, instead sleeping arrangements will be comparable to a summer camp, Sulic said. There are several beds in a room and every resident will have a plastic container for their stuff as well as a shelf for clothes and other items. If there isn’t space for all of their stuff inside the building, there are more plastic bins for storage in the garage. Before bringing any stuff inside, resident’s belongings are put in a heater to kill any potential bed bugs.
“Everyone has a good distance away from each other, so that you can have a little bit of personal space,” Sulic said. “We don’t want to crowd people in there like sardines.”
Sulic said they want individuals to have a safe and calming space to make it easier for them to receive wraparound services provided by the shelter.
The building has five single stall, gender neutral restrooms, but two of them are for staff use only. In addition, there are five portable showers outside that operate 24 hours a day. Each shower has a toilet included as well.
Pets are allowed in the facility and the shelter is working with the San Pedro Pet Palace to vaccinate, spay and neuter them, Velazquez said.