The L.A. Mission is sell­ing its tran­si­tional build­ing in Hol­ly­wood; res­i­dents must move by June 15

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - ‘We met our moral obli­ga­tion to them.... They will all have hous­ing, even if they have to come back to the mission.’ — Herb Smith, Los An­ge­les Mission pres­i­dent By Gale Hol­land

Af­ter spend­ing two years at the Los An­ge­les Mission over­com­ing a metham­phetamine ad­dic­tion, Pa­trick Vin­cer grad­u­ated from the skid row shel­ter to the Chris­tian min­istry’s apart­ment build­ing in Hol­ly­wood.

Vin­cer, 49, a for­mer car­ni­val worker, said mission staff told him in Jan­uary that he had two years to get his life to­gether at the 45-unit build­ing fac­ing the Hol­ly­wood stu­dio where “Hannah Mon­tana” and “The Jazz Singer” were filmed. Dur­ing that time, he would re­ceive job-devel­op­ment and fi­nan­cial-lit­er­acy train­ing and have a chance to save money to tran­si­tion to living on his own.

But a lit­tle over two months later, the mission’s staff an­nounced that the build­ing was be­ing sold and the ten­ants — up to 90 men, women and chil­dren — had to be out by June 15, Vin­cer said. Mass evic­tions of apart­ment build­ings are sky­rock­et­ing in Los An­ge­les — the num­ber of units pro­posed for re­moval from the rental mar­ket tripled be­tween 2013 and 2014, city hous­ing records show. Hol­ly­wood is one of the hot spots.

But although low-in­come house­holds in rent-con­trolled build­ings can re­ceive $10,000 to $20,000 for mov­ing ex­penses and ex­tra time to re­group, res­i­dents at 1417 Bron­son Ave. were turned out with no re­lo­ca­tion benefits. The city in 2001 granted the mission’s low-in­come hous­ing project an ex­emp­tion, the records say.

“Putting peo­ple back into so­ci­ety, I think that’s priceless,” said ten­ant An­drew Glenn, 52. “This is cre­at­ing home­less­ness.”

“They said we should have faith in the Lord and the Lord would see us through it,” Vin­cer said he was told by mission of­fi­cials.

The Wein­gart Foun­da­tion, a Los An­ge­les phi­lan­thropy, do­nated the Bron­son Av­enue apart­ments to the Los An­ge­les Mission in 1994. Mission Pres­i­dent Herb Smith said the min­istry was sell­ing the build­ing be­cause the pro­gram wasn’t work­ing as it should. It was too far from the mission’s skid row ser­vices, he said.

The sale pro­ceeds will be set aside for a new tran­si­tional hous­ing fa­cil­ity at a lo­ca­tion to be determined later, Smith said. He de­clined to name the buyer or the sale price. Many ten­ants had am­ple time to save money, and no­body would be left to be­come home­less again, he said.

“We met our moral obli­ga­tion to them,” Smith said. “No one’s go­ing to be out on the street. They will all have hous­ing, even if they have to come

back to the mission.”

Sev­eral ten­ants, how­ever, said the mission had left them to fend for them­selves.

Re­turn­ing to skid row, where some spent decades in the streets in the throes of ad­dic­tion, is their great­est fear, they said.

“That’s like re­turn­ing to your own vomit,” said Ken­neth Bryant, 60, a Bron­son Av­enue res­i­dent. “That’s why God de­liv­ered us from there in the first place.”

Plagued by the dou­ble bind of low wages and high prices, Los An­ge­les is the least af­ford­able rental mar­ket in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to Har­vard Uni­ver­sity’s Joint Cen­ter for Hous­ing Stud­ies. Ten­ants at the Bron­son, all for­merly home­less peo­ple fight­ing var­i­ous ad­dic­tions, are the poor­est of the poor. Some re­ceive $221 monthly wel­fare pay­ments or dis­abil­ity benefits, typ­i­cally less than $1,000 a month. Many have felony records that limit their em­ploy­ment and hous­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The mission, which re­ported $12.5 mil­lion in rev­enues in 2013, ob­tained a $1mil­lion sub­si­dized loan five years ago from the Fed­eral Home Loan Bank of San Fran­cisco to re­ha­bil­i­tate the apart­ment build­ing. Smith said there were no con­di­tions on ei­ther the foun­da­tion’s gift or the loan bar­ring the sale. Wein­gart Foun­da­tion spokes­woman Su­san Dunn con­firmed the foun­da­tion’s gift was not an ob­sta­cle.

Vin­cer has found a stu­dio apart­ment on the edge of down­town. But the $550 monthly rent — he was pay­ing $250 in “oc­cu­pancy fees” at the Bron­son — will be a stretch, he said.

He earned a com­mu­nity col­lege heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing main­te­nance cer­ti­fi­ca­tion with the mission’s help, but could find work only as an itin­er­ant la­borer, Vin­cer said.

“The Los An­ge­les Mission’s a good deal; I don’t hold any grudge against them,” Vin­cer said. “I just feel they left us out in the dark.”

Bryant, 60, is still look­ing for a place. He said he ap­pre­ci­ated that the mission helped him over­come a crack co­caine and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion, but he gave back “100%” by help­ing with the in­sti­tu­tion’s out­reach and public re­la­tions.

On a YouTube video, Laker star Kobe Bryant praises Ken­neth Bryant’s (no re­la­tion) “per­se­ver­ance” in com­ing back. The video was made for TakePart, the dig­i­tal mag­a­zine arm of Par­tic­i­pant Me­dia, which pro­motes so­cial causes through film pro­duc­tions, in­clud­ing “Food Inc.” and “The Help.”

“Out of the four guys on the video, I’m the only one still clean and sober,” Bryant said.

Bryant said his se­cu­rity job for a film pro­duc­tion com­pany is not enough to help his daugh­ter through col­lege and pay for a place that will let him in.

“It used to be do you have the money? It ain’t like that no more,” said an­other dis­placed ten­ant, Melvin Colmer. “Now there’s a back­ground check, wait­ing list and do you even qual­ify?”

With the mission’s help, Colmer is mov­ing into a ren­o­vated for­mer flop­house on skid row. He said “it wasn’t right the way it hap­pened” but is sat­is­fied with the out­come.

“I didn’t want to come back down­town, af­ter be­ing here in my ad­dic­tion for years,” Colmer said. “But I’m go­ing to let God take me where he will.”

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

PA­TRICK VIN­CER car­ries be­long­ings to his car from his tran­si­tional hous­ing apart­ment in Hol­ly­wood. He moved there in Jan­uary and had hoped to spend two years at the apart­ment get­ting back on his feet.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

“THE LOS AN­GE­LES MISSION’S a good deal; I don’t hold any grudge against them,” says Pa­trick Vin­cer. “I just feel they left us out in the dark.”


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