City Council to open bridge housing in Chabad of Westwood to combat homelessness

Jeff Ebenstein, director of Policy and Legislation for City Councilmember Paul Koretz, said the five-story building is in the early stages of development intended to maximize space for the bridge housing facility. (Joe Akira/Daily Bruin staff)

The Los Angeles City Council is planning to open a housing project in Westwood to provide housing for homeless people.

The project will create temporary bridge housing for homeless individuals and intends to expand housing options for the Los Angeles homeless population. The bridge housing facility in Westwood will be located within Chabad of Westwood’s building on Gayley Avenue. Each facility in the project will remain open for three years.

Bridge housing facilities differ from traditional homeless shelters because they offer professional mental health and addiction services. Residents will also be offered three meals each day, storage and space for their pets.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is evaluating potential bridge housing facilities throughout LA in an effort to combat homelessness as a part of his “A Bridge Home” campaign. According to a homeless count, approximately 34,189 individuals experienced homelessness in Los Angeles in 2017.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz motioned the approval of the Westwood bridge house after the rabbi from Chabad of Westwood said he would be willing to help with the project. Jeff Ebenstein, director of Policy & Legislation for Koretz, said Chabad has been proactive in helping the city with the project.

“They have been helping with homeless services for decades, so Councilmember (Koretz) asked if he would be willing to help with a homeless shelter here in the city,” Ebenstein said. “He agreed and suggested a creative out-of-the-box solution to do it here in the Chabad headquarters.”

Ebenstein added the five-story building is in the early stages of development, and is intended to maximize space for the bridge housing facility.

Ebenstein said this is the first bridge housing site in the city that will use space within a pre-existing building. All other planned sites will be built on vacant lots near dense homeless encampments.

Michael Skiles, the president of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council and the Graduate Students Association, said he thinks the resources that bridge housing offers overcome many of the barriers that usually discourage people from entering a shelter.

“They let people keep their dog, they let people keep and have relationships with any lovers they may have, they give people the opportunity to return to the same bed each night,” he said. “These shelters take a mindset that these are equal human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, said he thinks the bridge housing projects are something to be proud of.

“This is one of those cases where I think we should all be proud to be Angelenos. The city of Los Angeles is experiencing probably the worst of the entire homeless crisis in this country and we’ve stepped up to take action,” Thomas said. “I hope that it lets our local transients transition back into healthy and productive lives.”

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