The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a $20,000 donation to a nonprofit organization that operates a 36-bed homeless shelter at a Highland Park church and was earlier denied funding.

The money will go to Recycled Resources, which is working with All Saints Episcopal Church to turn pews into beds. The group has been relying on crowd-funding efforts and financial help from the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council and the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.

Monica Alcaraz, a volunteer with the group, said the funds will help the group reimburse the church for heating, lighting and other costs.

The church is “not charging (us) anything, but we feel it’s necessary to pay for the costs they are incurring,” she said.

The money may also be used for food, Metro TAP cards and other necessities, she said.

Councilman Jose Huizar introduced the motion to take the $20,000 out of his 14th Council District’s discretionary account.

“I wanted to ensure that they have the necessary funding to continue their life-altering work during this time of need and upcoming El Nino storms,” he said.

“I had the pleasure of recently meeting several NELA (Northeast Los Angeles) shelter residents, and I am profoundly impressed by their thankfulness, grace and high spirits.”

Recycled Resources is also hoping to apply for more funding from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which provides money to winter shelters.

The funds could pay those who are volunteers who are helping despite having day jobs, making sure there is better chance for the shelter to keep running, Alcaraz said.

The nonprofit organization may work with Ascencia, a more experienced shelter provider that operates an 80-bed shelter in Glendale and already receives funding from LAHSA.

Natalie Komuro, executive director for Ascencia, said it is working out a contract with LAHSA to obtain funding for the All Saints Episcopal Church site.

Because LAHSA’s winter shelter funding is distributed based on the number of beds, Komuro said it may face a $30,000 funding gap because the number of staff that may be needed and other operating expenses stays the same whether it is a 36-bed or 80-bed shelter.

The shelter also faced a hurdle recently when LAHSA deemed the church site unsuitable, with the agency’s officials noting that pews were being used as the beds.

This prompted Councilman Gil Cedillo to recommend the Bridewell Armory, a facility owned by the city. However, Recycled Resources volunteers criticized this site as being unready for immediate use.

Alcaraz described the armory as “inhabitable,” saying it needs remodeling and has no electricity or running water. Ceja countered that the location is actually not as bad as described and can be quickly converted into a shelter.

Komuro said it appears Cedillo, whose district includes the church site, has since been able to persuade LAHSA to reconsider the church location, and is now moving forward with the contract to provide winter shelter funding.

Cedillo appeared to signal his support for the church site, authoring a motion approved by the council today that includes Ascencia as the city’s designated temporary shelter provider for the All Saints Episcopal Church location.

Cedillo aide Fredy Ceja said this will allow Ascencia to work with LAHSA to obtain the per-bed shelter funding, and relax building rules that typically makes the church shelter vulnerable to being shut down by city building officials.

Designating Ascencia as the service provider for the church shelter would also make the group eligible for the next round of city homeless services funding, after it was unable to get funding from the $12.4 million in emergency homeless relief money that was proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and recently approved by the City Council.

Alcaraz said that despite Cedillo’s motion, there are still many unknowns.

Ascencia’s board still needs to decide if it would be financially feasible to take over the shelter, so there is no guarantee they would agree to do it, and LAHSA has not directly told Recycled Resources that the church site has been approved, Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz, who is also president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, added that Cedillo could have done more to help them get the relief funding.

Cedillo had originally intended to assign funds to their shelter, but instead of specifying from the outset that some of the $12.4 million should go to the All Saints Episcopal Church shelter, he had submitted their request using the more vague wording of “Highland Park shelter.”

This move, or Cedillo’s unwillingness to commit to the church site, could have hurt their chances of getting the money, Alcaraz said. She said Cedillo appeared to want to push the armory facility, located in the 14th Council District.

“Why not support something that’s already happening, and going to continue to happen?” Alcaraz said, referring to the existing church shelter. “Or at least I’m going to try.”

— City News Service

December 16, 2015

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