New Bridge Home “The Willows” Welcomes its First Residents
(Councilmember Blumenfield outside of the new Bridge Housing site with Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, President and CEO of LA Family Housing)
In a continued effort to help get unsheltered people into housing and off the streets, Councilmember Blumenfield was proud to announce the West Valley’s first Bridge Housing site, “The Willows,” opened this Monday. The Willows is located in Canoga Park and currently, 47 formerly unhoused people now call it home. That will expand to help 80 people once the pandemic capacity limitation is lifted. There are many critical amenities and resources onsite including case management, space for animals and larger quarters for couples.
(Team Blumenfield organizing welcome kits for new residents at the Willows)
Recently, Blumenfield joined LA Family Housing, the service provider for the site, to welcome some of The Willows’ first residents. He and his staff worked to make welcome kits filled with hygiene products, clothing and other personal items available to each new resident who enters the site. Many local, West Valley business owners answered Blumenfield’s call for donations and helped supply the goods for welcome kits including toiletries, towels, shower caddies and more. A special thank you to Tim Gaspar of Gaspar Insurance Services, Brad Rosenheim and Chris Murray of Rosenheim & Associates, Inc., and Rickey Gelb of Gelb Group, A Family of Companies, for all your donations.
“This would have not been possible without Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and her team who worked hand in glove with us,” said Blumenfield. “Just a few years ago we had no permanent services in the West Valley helping our community’s unhoused residents. With incredible partnerships with LA Family Housing and other local nonprofit service providers, we are growing, and strengthening, a network that is starting to make a real tangible difference in people’s lives.”
(Blumenfield signing the welcome whiteboard)
Before becoming The Willows, this site was privately owned, and previously served as a County mental health facility. Blumenfield and Kuehl came together with a plan and the City allocated a conditional grant of $4.3 million to the County to purchase the property., The County renovated the site and will provide at least fifteen years of homeless services. The City’s funding included $1.3 million from the Mayor’s Bridge Housing line item and an additional $3 million from the State’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).
The Willows received its name in honor of the Tongva Tribe, whose tradition it was to house the needy by constructing shelters from Willow Trees. The City of Los Angeles sits on Tongva land and Blumenfield and his team wanted to honor their legacy at this homeless site, where the mission is to help and shelter those in need.
In addition to the opening of the Willows, Blumenfield recently announced that he led the purchase of two hotels serving formerly unhoused individuals. Blumenfield is working to open several additional housing and shelter opportunities, including a new Safe Parking site coming this month in Canoga Park and two cabin communities in Reseda and Tarzana that can be expected this spring.
Watch the official Willows grand opening from the comfort of your home on Friday, February 12 at 9:00AM. Please click here to RSVP.
COVID-19 Vaccine Message from Councilmember Bob Blumenfield
As seniors 65+ try to access the LA County vaccine registration, many have had long wait times on the phone, website difficulties, and a lack of available vaccines. My parents have had the same problem, and I refreshed the County’s appointment portal countless times for them with no success. I am there with you in this frustrating process to get a vaccine for my own parents and I know too many are continuing to struggle with this system.
My office has contacted many seniors in the West Valley to provide them with the web portal and hotline to make an appointment. If you are still working to get an appointment on either platform, please do not give up on getting a vaccine. Over the last few weeks, the County has ramped up their capacity to answer the phone more quickly and will continue to work to make their webpage and appointment portals more accessible. All of these web issues are compounded by the reality that the vaccine doses from the federal government have been in short supply. Inequity in who gets the vaccine remains a concern and I am hoping for more local distribution in the communities that need it most.
We will continue to urge the County to increase its distribution capacity, expand accessibility to all seniors 65+, and support the needs of the most vulnerable. To learn about eligibility, please visit http://vaccinatelacounty.com/ To call and book an appointment, the number is 833-540-0473 and hours are currently 8 am to 8:30 pm, 7 days a week.
Governor Newsom Signs into Law State Rent Relief Program and Extends Eviction Moratorium
Thousands of Angelenos have reached a point where they are one or two paychecks away from ending up on the streets, and some are still being pushed out of units when they don’t know their rights. Many are racking up untenable debt. Lost wages, unemployment, and emergency expenses have hurt many families’ ability to pay their rent and afford basic necessities. Recently Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law to extend the statewide eviction moratorium for an additional five months to June 30, 2021 as well as legislation to provide up to $2.6 billion in Federal stimulus funds towards rent relief. These are important efforts to keep our neighbors from ending up on the streets or living out of their cars, but we need much more.
According to the eviction moratorium, landlords may not evict their tenants through June as long as they have received at least 25% in rent from their tenants and their tenants attest financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rent relief bill will provide $2.6 billion in Federal stimulus funds towards rental subsidies, which will help pay tenants rent due between now and April 2020. To learn more about whether you are eligible for rent relief and to understand the extent of the eviction moratorium, please visit HousingIsKey.com. Applications for the rental relief program will open March 15, 2021.
Blumenfield Organizes West Valley Small Business Outreach
This week Councilmember Blumenfield went on zoom to do outreach with several small business owners from the West Valley and hear directly from them about their business concerns during the pandemic. During the outreach, Blumenfield met with Tarzana Armenian Deli, Pozi's Fresh Grill, Castle Dermatology Institute, Evette's Beauty Supply, and Blu Jam Café.
Councilmember Blumenfield and his team wanted to remind business owners about the many resources available at the State, such as the second round of the COVID-19 Relief Grant Program (see next story for more details), and efforts Blumenfield has made to support small businesses, such as streamlining restaurant permits, temporarily suspending certain signage laws so local businesses can promote their services without fear of fines or penalties, and extending expiring conditional use permits (CUP) and cutting other bureaucratic hurdles to help local businesses survive.
Blumenfield also partnered with the Change Reaction to establish a West Valley Small Business Angel Fund and he re-directed over $100,000 from his office’s Discretionary Funds to go directly to 20 West Valley nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic through his COVID-19 Nonprofit Emergency Grant Program.
COVID-19 Relief Grant Program Round 2 Available to Small Businesses
Small businesses are the bedrock of our economy and make up the fabric of our community. The State recently launched the second round of the COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, where over $500 million will be made available to qualifying small businesses in the form of grants. If you run a small business or know a small business owner who could benefit from this program, be sure to share with them the application link. Apply today or before the application deadline on February 8 at 6:00PM PST
If you’d like to learn more about these grants and whether your business is eligible, be sure to visit https://careliefgrant.com/. CA Small Business Majority will be hosting an informative webinar this Monday, February 8 at 1:00PM PST to discuss the grant application and answer questions.
Blumenfield Measure To Bridge Digital Divide Passed in Key Committee
Recognizing the far reaching impact of unequal access to the internet for students, employees, and recently for seniors trying to access COVID-19 vaccines, this week, Councilmember Blumenfield’s new legislation aiming at growing digital equity throughout the city passed a key committee. The motion specifically calls on the City Administrative Officer and Chief Legislative Analyst to report on the creation of a Digital Equity Plan that sets short term and long term goals, identifies funding sources and ensures collaboration among all departments working toward this effort.
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen how deep the digital divide is with far too many kids and families who don’t have access to reliable internet or enough devices to go to school or do basic work,” said Blumenfield. “This motion will help all city partners come together and create a blueprint, and prioritize digital equity in Los Angeles.”
Blumenfield is partnering with over 40 nonprofits that make up Great Public Schools Now to help grow digital inclusion and ensure that students are not being further left behind.
Blumenfield Introduces Protections for Freelancers
Councilmember Blumenfield introduced legislation to provide critical protections for freelance workers. Modeled after the ‘Freelance Isn’t Free’ law in New York City, the goal is to make sure that these workers get paid promptly and have some leverage in industries that historically have been rife with abuse. Many Angelenos work without contracts and aren't considered 'employees' under federal, state and local labor laws, and they have none of the basic workplace protections. Editors, care workers, graphic artists, and independent contractors like domestic workers are some of the freelancers who are vulnerable to unfair pay disputes and other issues and will benefit from this legislation. To learn more, click here.
Blumenfield Requests City Departments Report on Rollout of Unarmed Crisis Responder Program
This week Councilmember Blumenfield introduced a measure requesting City Departments to provide an update to the public on the status of rolling out LA’s unarmed responder program. In October 2020, the Council unanimously voted in favor of Blumenfield’s motion to establish an unarmed responder program that could divert non-violent calls to unarmed crisis responders. This type of program has worked successfully in other cities such as Eugene, Oregon and has saved their police time and resources, allowing them to focus on actual crime finding. Sometimes a mental health or other crisis can be best handled by someone who has the time and training to meet those needs without a badge and a gun. Learn more about Eugene, Oregon’s program and what it may look like in LA by watching Blumenfield’s virtual town hall.
Team Blumenfield is partnering with the Los Angeles Public Library’s (LAPL) photo archive to highlight historic photos of the West Valley. This week's photo was taken in 1960 between Winnetka Ave and Roscoe Boulevard where over 100 mothers protested the absence of sidewalks and crossing guards for their children’s safety. Just like today, leaders in the community are concerned about pedestrian safety and Councilmember Blumenfield has worked with many groups to advocate for more crossing guards, pedestrian and bike lanes, and safer streets for the West Valley. Just last year, Blumenfield worked with City Departments to get 8 new sidewalks installed and worked to get the first Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon Crosswalk in the West Valley, which is located on Winnetka Ave. at Lanark St. and dramatically improves pedestrian safety in the area. To learn more about the archived photo, click here.
Recently Team Blumenfield worked with community members from MTO Shahmaghsoudi (School of Islamic Sufism) to drop off PPEs to local facilities/hospitals. Since Team Blumenfield knew the Motion Picture & Television Fund has a vulnerable population, they worked with MTO to distribute 2000 bags of PPEs. Also delivered were 2000 handmade red velvet cupcakes for the staff. Team Blumenfield coordinated the dropoff to assist staff and seniors at the site, and to prepare them to be converted into a vaccination site.