LA leaders unveil new Skid Row health center

New health center vows to provide a wide range of health services for the city’s growing homeless population

Though the city of Los Angeles has gone through several administrations that have tried to tackle the rampant homelessness problem, the recently passed Proposition HHH is vowing to take that fight more seriously than in the past.

Prop HHH, a wide-ranging homeless initiative that looks to reduce homelessness in a city where it thrives, has funded several housing projects designed to keep more people off the streets.

But the homelessness problem is twofold: providing more housing but also expanding health resources for the homeless and underserved.

On Wednesday, March 28, the city’s leaders formally unveiled the Joshua House Health Center, which promises quality health care that is geographically accessible to a vast majority of the city’s homeless community.

Funded primarily through a Prop HHH award in the first round of funding, the clinic will simultaneously expand health care while providing a pathway for housing for those who are experiencing homelessness.

“The Joshua House Health Center will provide state-of-the-art, comprehensive medical care to 200 people a day. The goal is access to health, access to homes, access to a better life and access to a better community. Let’s bring everyone in!” LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said at a press conference on Wednesday at the center’s location.

Local faith leaders also came to the unveiling to bless the grounds. Los Angeles Christian Health Centers owns and will operate the Joshua House Health Clinic, which will replace an existing 100-year structure that has operated as a crack house.

The new three-story clinic will be a part of a larger multi-project development — which will include a 55-unit apartment area for homeless Angelenos — that will be developed by Skid Row Housing Trust.

“We are proud of this very special project that we hope will help transform the way health care and housing services are offered to people who are homeless and underserved,” said President and CEO of LACHC Lisa Abdishoo, M.D. “It’s significant that LACHC is able to expand in this way to do more to reach people who are homeless and have complex needs.

Abdishoo said that the Joshua House Health Center — which is located in Skid Row on 7th Street and Wall Street — will provide a wide range of medical, dental, mental health and substance abuse services for the area’s homeless population.

According to a statement provided by the Skid Row Housing Trust, the new space will serve an additional 1,200 patients within the first year and is projected to serve up to 7,000 annually. The clinic will include 18 medical exam rooms, six consultation rooms, eight dental chairs, nine mental health rooms and 13 social work and care coordination offices.

There will also be a large multi-purpose room for fitness classes and health education as well as a meditation room and a chaplain’s office.

For people who are homeless, the average life expectancy is 30 years less than those who do not experience homelessness, and many homeless people develop life-threatening, preventable diseases. The city hopes that this new clinic will provide care for those who didn’t have access existing public resources.

“It’s about damn time,” a homeless man who asked to be called T.J. shared with the Asian Journal on Wednesday. “For years we’ve been without a lot of the things that should be necessities for everyone. It’s the wild west out here, man [and] we have our own form of politics out here. Other people see us and act like they’re scared, but it’s dangerous for us, too.”

T.J., 45, has battled alcoholism and drug abuse which he what he said caused him to become homeless for the past seven years. He came from a lower-middle class upbringing but various “relationships and lifestyle changes” led him to become what he cheekily calls “certifiably homeless.” He has tried to seek out resources for homeless veterans but nothing thus far has been effective in him kicking his addiction and getting him a permanent residence.

“When you’re seeing us from a car or from a situation where you never — where you think you’ll never be homeless, it’s different. When you’re actually here, it’s a different world. People judge, but they don’t know,” T.J. remarked.

When asked if he thinks the new health clinic means change for the homeless community on Skid Row, he laughed and said, “I sure hope so. The city has been trying to do something about us for years to result in absolutely zero change. There’s all this hoo-ha about new laws that are supposed to get us off these streets, but honestly, a lot of us aren’t holding our breath. But I’m an optimist so hopefully, this does something. That’s an achievement in my book.”

Homeless initiatives in CA 

As previously reported by the Asian Journal, the state of California has kickstarted a new effort to combat homelessness across the state.

In the last few years, homelessness has surged across the state. According to 2017 data from the state, California had 135,000 homeless people (the most of any state), which measures to about a quarter of the nation’s homeless population. Although there was a 15 percent decrease in the homeless population, the state saw a 2.1 percent increase from 2015.

Los Angeles is home to about a quarter of the state’s entire homeless population. The LA Homeless Services Authority found that in 2017, the LA County had more than 57,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night, which is a 23 percent increase from 2016. More than 4,800 of those individuals are military veterans and more than 8,500 of those individuals are in families.

Eleven California mayors —  including LA Mayor Eric Garcetti — have proposed legislation that asks for $1.5 billion from the state to allocate to homeless services which include housing and health care.

“Cities are first responders in this crisis, and we are leveraging every possible resource to get people off the street and into homes. But we need help,” Garcetti said in a statement. This bill would provide emergency bridge housing and services to help people with their most urgent needs, so that they can begin rebuilding their lives with the dignity that everyone deserves.” (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)

Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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