The Galaxy Inn was once a seedy motel on Vine Street, but it will soon be repurposed into Step Up on Vine, a supportive, permanent living facility for mentally ill homeless people.
Plans call for work to begin in December to convert the building. The project has been in the works since 2009 after the three-story hotel near the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine Street was purchased by Step Up on Second, a Santa Monica-based social service organization. The Galaxy Inn has been vacant for more than three years, but will be revamped into 34 units of housing for Step Up on Second’s clients.
Tod Lipka, the CEO of Step Up on Second, said the project will address the issue of chronically homeless people in Hollywood, many of whom are also suffering from mental illness. Approximately 510 people are considered to be chronically homeless in Hollywood at any given time, and approximately 25 to 30 percent are suffering from some form of mental illness, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
“We see it as a local solution to a local problem,” Lipka said. “They will be given a permanent place to live, and we hope to provide meals, case management, job training, psychiatric support and other services.”
The housing units will be created on the upper two levels of the building, with the supportive services and a coffee shop on the ground level. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently allocated $250,000 for the project through the office of Supervisor Zev Yarolsavsky, 3rd District. Lipka said the conversion will cost approximately $12 million, of which $7 million is coming from state grants, and $2.5 million was received from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Philanthropist Aileen Getty also contributed $1 million, and has given Step Up on Second a $2 million loan for the project. Lipka said it will be completed in conjunction with the Hollywood Community Housing Corporation.
The hotel building was constructed in the 1920s, but Lipka said it had had other uses over the years, including previously being used as a hostel and a homeless shelter. Lipka added that during the planning phase over the past two years, representatives of Step Up on second met with residents, business owners and others in the local neighborhood, and said many welcome the new facility because they understand the issue of homelessness in the area is growing.
“We believe the answer to the question of how to solve homelessness is providing permanent supportive housing,” Lipka said. “We are taking individuals in Hollywood and housing them in Hollywood, and taking inter-care support services once they are in housing.”
Lipka said the housing will be for people who are considered chronically homeless, meaning they have been living on the street for more than one year, and are suffering from some form of mental illness, which can include depression, schizophrenia and many other conditions. Many of the individuals will be identified by Hollywood 4WRD — a coalition of approximately 75 service providers, businesses and individuals working together to end homelessness — who canvass the streets of Hollywood every few months to assess the problem and link individuals with services. According to Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Entertainment District and a co-founder of Hollywood 4WRD, the problem is definitely growing. The coalition has been conducting its operations on the streets of Hollywood since April 2010, when 228 homeless individuals were identified, but that number has grown to more than 500, and continues to rise, Morrison said.
“There are precious few housing resources for chronically homeless, mentally ill people,” Morrison said. “There are some resources on Skid Row, but to my knowledge, nothing outside of Skid Row other than Step Up on Second. This is intended for people who are really in need of supportive services.”
Yaroslavsky said the new project is part of a larger effort to end homelessness in Los Angeles County, and said the resources being provided to Step Up on Second are an important part of the solution. Yaroslavsky added that Step Up on Vine will address the issue in the heart of an area in desperate need of resources.
“Hollywood is a very impacted area, and there has not been enough done in Hollywood to address the problem of homelessness,” Yaroslavsky said. “This partnership with Step Up on Second runs quite deep with us. This Hollywood project is another in a series of projects where we are building permanent housing to get these people off the streets. As Hollywood has become gentrified, the level of poverty and homelessness continues to be unacceptable. This is an opportunity to give these individuals units of there own, a bedroom kitchenette, a bathroom and a roof over their heads. As I like to say, you can’t address homelessness without giving people a home, an that is what this is designed to do.”
Lipka said Step Up on Vine is one of three permanent housing projects the organization is creating in Hollywood, including a 32-unit facility at a former hotel near the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Formosa Avenue, and a 10-unit building on Tamarind Street. Step Up on Second also has approximately 90 units of housing at three facilities in Santa Monica, and provides supportive services for approximately 1,600 people per year. The Step Up on Vine project is expected to be completed by January 2013.
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