Can housing lead to food security?

Student volunteers from USC set up a mini farmer’s market in the community kitchen at the Abby Apartments. Residents were provided grocery bags and fresh produce for free.

Student volunteers from USC set up a mini farmer’s market in the community kitchen at the Abby Apartments. Residents were provided grocery bags and fresh produce for free.

You sign your lease. You get the keys to your new apartment. You unpack your single box of clothes, and a Welcome Home Kit that has linens, dish soap, towels, pots, pans, dishes, cups, utensils – everything you need to start a new chapter in your life after homelessness.

But then you open your fridge. What should be an exciting moment, to have a kitchen to cook in after years of homelessness, is a harsh reminder that you still need help getting essentials to thrive. You need food. On General Relief a person receives only $221 a month. That leaves little for healthy food after rent, medications, transportation, and hygiene items are purchased. Kitchens often sit empty because food insecurity is real and damaging. But as a community, we can address it.

Food security, defined as a household having access to adequate nutritious and safe foods, is often jeopardized by homelessness and poverty. Studies report high rates of food insecurity among individuals who are homeless and living on the streets, staying in shelters, or in marginal housing (i.e. doubled up or in single-room occupancy units). And we see this in the work we do even when people transition from homelessness to Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). Despite having a place to store and prepare food and having access to resources such as food banks, a study funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, conducted at Skid Row Housing Trust (”the Trust”), found two-thirds of residents (67%) reported low food security that was directly related to limited income and far exceeds the rate of 22% among similarly aged low-income adults in the general population.

Food insecurity is associated with many of the health conditions that disproportionately affect PSH residents, including diabetes, HIV/AIDS, mobility impairments, depressive symptoms, substance use, and victimization or exposure to violence. Food insecure residents may also postpone medical care for financial reasons, leading to higher rates of emergency room use and hospitalization. Addressing food insecurity is essential for Trust residents to achieve health equity and to address all other challenges such as mental health, physical well-being, and emotional stability. Having a full stomach can mean sleeping well, which means the resident is more alert and remembers their doctor’s appointment, which means they get necessary medications, which means they can think clearly and do not feel the need to drink, which means they start to meet personal goals. There’s a domino effect and it is rooted in housing and food security. Recovery starts with housing, we continue care with food. .

From bringing professional chefs to our buildings to teach residents how to cook well with limited ingredients, to finding more food delivery resources for our mobility impaired and aging residents, there are creative ways to help residents become food secure.   Our Trust at 30! Event on November 7th at The Majestic Downtown, will celebrate our Food Security Champions who are addressing this need. We hope you’ll join us and contribute to enhancing programs that help residents become food secure! Once we address food needs we can address all other challenges.

Jack Lahey, MSW, is the Vice President of Health and Social Services  at Skid Row Housing Trust. He oversees all programing for residents and is involved with leading the Trust to increase its services to better address and support a fragile aging population.

Benjamin Henwood, PhD, LCSW, is a Skid Row Housing Trust board member and a recognized expert in health and housing services research whose work connects clinical interventions with social policy. Dr. Henwood has specific expertise in improving care for adults experiencing homelessness and serious mental illness, as well as in the integration of primary and behavioral health care.

Formerly homeless, Brent helps others get off the streets

Skid Row Housing Trust is home to friends, family members, and neighbors who are recovering from long-term homelessness and working towards a better life. Los Angeles faces a staggering homelessness crisis, so your continued support of effective and compassionate programs is more important than ever.

Our housing helps people like Brent, a proud father and grandfather whose struggle with addiction and depression cost him his job and apartment. Brent‘s two adult sons helped him however they could, encouraging him to seek treatment and housing. A healthy home and professional support from the Trust helped Brent recover and find fulfillment assisting others who face similar hurdles. As a Peer Advocate, Brent now mentors new Trust residents who are transitioning from homelessness into permanent supportive housing. He recently moved into an affordable apartment in the community, and is able to spend more precious quality time with his family.

Donate to Skid Row Housing Trust in honor of Brent and his sons, who show the strength and persistence of the Los Angeles community. It won’t be easy or simple, but homelessness is a crisis that we can solve together.

We are all in to fight homelessness. We need your help.

This week the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released its 2017 Homeless Count results. The numbers are heartbreaking: an estimated 58,000 people are now homeless in Los Angeles County, a 23% increase from 2016.

Only hours later we celebrated the grand opening of the Trust’s newest property, Crest Apartments. 64 formerly homeless individuals with high health needs – 23 of whom are military veterans – now call Crest Apartments home. The Crest residents are among 14,000 homeless individuals housed throughout Los Angeles County last year.

Rising housing costs and stagnant wages across the County mean that many of our friends, family members, and neighbors are one crisis away from living on the street. We will not end homelessness until this economic crisis is addressed.

And yet I have hope for Los Angeles. Alongside our partners, Skid Row Housing Trust is ready to fight this extraordinary crisis. We have a pipeline of over 500 permanent supportive housing units in predevelopment – many of which are funded through the first round of Prop HHH bond measure funding made available by the City of Los Angeles. We are ensuring that our residents have access to the care and support they need to remain stably housed, and expect to take full advantage of more robust supportive programs that will be supported by Measure H and Whole Person Care in the years to come.

What can you do? Be an advocate for affordable housing and permanent supportive housing in your community. We need to create housing wherever homelessness is happening in Los Angeles – and it is happening everywhere. Elected officials and neighborhood representatives need to hear that you would welcome more housing options in your backyard.

Our work is not possible without your support. Donate now or set up your own fundraising campaign for Skid Row Housing Trust at Every dollar helps us provide stable homes that are the foundation of a healthy and fulfilling life.

Mike Alvidrez
CEO, Skid Row Housing Trust

Support Skid Row Housing Trust this Mother’s Day

Kim, a mother of four, struggled with addiction and homelessness throughout her life before moving into an apartment at Skid Row Housing Trust. Kim doesn’t think she would have been able to reconnect with her family if it wasn’t for the stability and peace offered by permanent supportive housing. Kim is working to hard to improve her life, taking life skills and job readiness classes so that she can be there for her children.
The Trust provides people who have struggled with chronic homelessness more than just four walls and a roof. We create compassionate communities for those who need it most so that they can heal and reconnect with family and loved ones. Now, more than ever, we need your support.
In honor of Mother’s Day, donate in honor of someone who has helped you succeed, giving others the chance to build relationships that will help them lead happier, fuller lives.

Peer 4 Peer Support Groups

Peer 4 Peer meeting in a common area at the Star Apartments.

Held at various Trust buildings throughout the week, Peer 4 Peer is a support group that gives residents space to talk about issues that affect them. The Trust’s Peer Advocates facilitate the groups to create an environment that is open and compassionate. “We make sure the conversation keeps going,” said Peer Advocate Anthony Haynes. “We are not there to do all the talking, but to make sure everyone is respectful and can share their thoughts.”

Trained in psycho-social education techniques, Peer Advocates are current Trust residents that have experienced homelessness and are successfully housed. The Trust launched the Peer Advocate program to offer additional support to new residents during the critical first 90 days of transitioning from homelessness into housing. Having gone through the transition themselves, Peer Advocates offer mentorship and guidance to new residents based on firsthand experience. They help new residents connect to the wider community by inviting them to participate in weekly groups like Peer 4 Peer.

A supportive community is critical for leading healthy and full life, and Peer 4 Peer is a part of creating that support network. “Group members feel more comfortable in a space with peers,” said Stacey Hartnett, the Trust’s Health and Wellness Coordinator. “They can talk openly about struggles with substance use or mental illness, and gain strength from other residents who may have experienced similar challenges.”

Peer Advocate Anthony Haynes leading Peer 4 Peer at Star Apartments.

Measure H Officially Passes, Marking Historic Investment in Solutions to Homelessness

With the final votes tallied, Measure H has officially passed, thanks to the support of a broad coalition from across Los Angeles County. This diverse group of businesses, labor organizations, nonprofits, advocates, and elected officials also helped pass Measure HHH in the City of Los Angeles with an overwhelming 76% of the vote in November. Both measures required a 2/3 majority to pass, a massive endeavor that required the coordination of activists and organizations throughout the county to conduct voter outreach and education. Our efforts paid off!

Thanks to the generosity and vision of the community, Measure HHH and Measure H will collectively result in the largest commitment of resources by voters anywhere in the country – possibly ever – to locally prevent and end homelessness. Measure HHH authorized $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for the construction of 10,000 new homes. And now, Los Angeles County’s Measure H will generate $350 million a year for services that will help people access and stay in stable housing.

These historic votes are testament to the work that the Trust and its partners have done for so many years to develop, support, and promote effective programs. The Trust proved that permanent supportive housing works, and affirmed that we can end homelessness by meaningfully investing in evidence-based solutions. These election results show that voters want to live in a community that cares for its neighbors. A sincere THANK YOU to everyone who voted for a stronger, healthier Los Angeles.

Our work has just begun.

Mike Alvidrez
CEO, Skid Row Housing Trust

Building a Downtown LA for everyone

Curbed LA: How does a city keep one of its hottest neighborhoods from becoming just another enclave of the superrich?

What Are the Social Determinants of Health?

RAND Corporation: America spends more on health care than any other nation in the world. Yet from birth to old age, Americans live shorter, sicker lives than people in most other wealthy countries.

A two-year research project at RAND adds some weight to a theory that might explain why. It found better health outcomes in countries that spend more on social safety-net programs like child care subsidies or old-age benefits—even when they spend less on hospital stays and medical tests.

Health care alone, in other words, can only go so far to promote health. Evidence has been accumulating for years that where and how people live plays at least as important a role in how well, and how long.

Rally for Measure H at Crest Apartments

LA Family Housing President and CEO Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, LAHSA Chair Wendy Greuel, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Skid Row Housing Trust CEO Mike Alvidrez, and Art Directors Guild Assistant Executive Director Dooner all spoke in support of Measure H.

Yesterday at Skid Row Housing Trust’s Crest Apartments, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Chair Wendy Gruel, and a coalition of business leaders, veterans, and homeless service organizations urged voters to support Measure H on March 7th. Check out the live stream on Facebook! This ballot measure would create funding dedicated to supportive services that are proven to end and prevent homelessness, including outreach, health care, substance abuse recovery, housing support, and job training. While a home is the first step to ending homelessness, supportive services are essential for helping people get off the street and remain stably housed.

The rally was the first public event to take place at the Trust’s new Crest Apartments, which transformed an open lot into 63 homes for veterans and disabled individuals who have experienced homelessness. It is located in the San Fernando Valley, where the number of people experiencing homelessness grew by 35% last year. Measure H will help people across Los Angeles County, including women and children, veterans, and those with mental illness get the support they need and break the cycle of homelessness. It will help house 45,000 families and individuals within five years, and prevent homelessness for 30,000 families and individuals over the same period.

We asked Mayor Garcetti to write some postcards at the rally to help get out the vote. If you are interested in educating the public about Measure H, volunteer to phone bank from home and show your support on social media. Measure H is an important part of a county-wide effort to combat homelessness. It is an opportunity to define the type of community we want to live in and pass on to our children.

Mike Alvidrez
CEO, Skid Row Housing Trust

Antonio Gonzalez, a veteran who lives at the Crest Apartments, spoke about his experience with homelessness and the impact of permanent supportive housing on his life.

San Fernando Valley poised to tackle homelessness with new $1.2 billion housing initiative

The Architect’s Newspaper: The San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles has a reputation as a quintessentially suburban enclave. But, as the inner-city areas of Los Angeles have begun to embrace the hallmarks of traditional urbanism—increased housing density, fixed-transit infrastructure, and a dedication to pedestrian space—the valley has found itself parroting those same shifts in its own distinct way.