Calvin Shorts, 29, used to sleep in cars, on friends’ couches and sometimes outdoors, never knowing where he would be staying the next day.
But that all changed when he became one of 48 formerly homeless individuals who have now taken up residence at the La Kretz Villas, a housing complex located near Vermont Avenue and Beverly Boulevard in East Hollywood. The complex is operated by People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), and although residents started moving in last December, an official grand opening ceremony was held on March 29.
“I didn’t have any hope. Sleeping at everyone’s house and trying to find something to eat every night. I just couldn’t see any future,” Shorts said. “When they gave me the keys, I just fell to the floor and started crying. I feel like I got my life back. For the first time in my life, I have my own place.”
The housing, which is named the La Kretz Villas and is located at 335 N. Juanita Ave., a half-block north of Beverly Boulevard, features 48 one-bedroom studio units for homeless people, as well as one unit for an on-site manager. It was built on a former parking lot that was donated by Morton La Kretz, who owns properties throughout Los Angeles, including the Crossroads of the World in Hollywood. The project is one of six that have been completed or are being built to house the homeless and give them a foundation for moving forward with their lives.
“PATH realizes that to really end homelessness, you have to give people homes,” said John Molloy, executive director of PATH Ventures, the organization’s housing construction affiliate. “It can’t be described how important it is to give someone whose life has been in disarray a place to stay, a place to eat and a place that can provide a foundation on which they can recover.”
In addition to housing, the La Kretz Villas feature offices that house PATH services such as job placement, health care management and addiction counseling. The complex is located two blocks from the main PATH facility near Madison Avenue and Beverly Boulevard. PATH already operates a similar housing facility in Hollywood, near Gower Street and Hollywood Boulevard, as well as complexes in Inglewood and the Pico/Union neighborhood west of downtown. Two additional housing facilities are being built in North Hollywood and San Diego. The $12.6-million La Kretz Villas project was funded by federal grants, the former Community Development Agency of Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Housing Department. PATH assists residents in securing Section 8 assistance for rent to help cover the cost of running the facility.
La Kretz Villas resident Willard Harvey, 49, said he had been living in a hotel affiliated with a shelter downtown when he learned about the opportunity to get an apartment through PATH. The organization holds a lottery for potential residents before the housing facilities open, and Harvey was the eighth person chosen.
“For years I had been homeless, and I had just become used to it,” said Harvey, who moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans in 1990. “I wanted a change for a long time, and they gave me this opportunity and I followed through. They are giving me help filling out job applications and making doctor’s appointments. Without my apartment, I would probably still be living in a hotel downtown.”
Resident Jamie Hill, 26, who came to Los Angeles from Sacramento to be closer to her mother, added that she would also be without any hope for the future without the La Kretz Villas.
“I was on the streets for five years. I never had a place, and now, I have something to look forward to,” Hill added. “[PATH] knows about hardship and how to help. I plan on starting school soon to get my high school diploma.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember Eric Garcetti, 13th District, said the La Kretz Villas are part of a larger effort to reduce the number of homeless people citywide. It is estimated that there are 48,000 homeless people currently in Los Angeles County.
“We will be defined a city by what we do with our most intractable problems, and where there is a will, there is a way,” Garcetti said. “It is time for us to end homelessness.”
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