New Westwood facility provides multiple services for poor families
Clockwise from left: Commissioner David Edwards welcomes Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Judge Harry Pregerson.
BY KATHY LOVIN –
The Southern California Division recently celebrated the long-awaited opening of its 40-unit Westwood Transitional Village at a dedication ceremony filled with words of encouragement and hymns of thanks.
More than 300 people were present as Los Angeles City Mayor Richard Riordan, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson, and representatives from two major funders, California Equity Fund and the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission, joined Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards and Lt. Colonels Alfred and Sherryl Van Cleef to dedicate the facility to God’s purposes.
Edwards praised the transitional village for “bringing together the two aspects of work of The Salvation Army, the church and the social services, by designing a program that addresses the needs of the whole person.”
In 1989, the Westwood Transitional Village began to take shape on 2.13-acre piece of property leased from the Federal Government for $1 per year. At the urging of Advisory Board Member Judge Harry Pregerson, (then) Mayor Tom Bradley authorized the City of Los Angeles to provide 15 mobile homes for homeless families, especially those of homeless veterans. In 1996, the site was turned over by the federal government permanently to The Salvation Army for the purpose of serving homeless families until at least the year 2026.
The attractive new facility, designed as a campus, includes an administration building, child-care center, community center and two story apartment buildings. Each tastefully furnished apartment features two to four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small front yard, balcony, kitchen and private entrance. All of the ground floor units are fully equipped for wheel chair access.
The on-site Bessie Pregerson Child Care Center will be licensed to serve 70 children and has two large indoor and one outdoor play areas as well as counseling offices and a fully-appointed kitchen. Named for Pregerson’s mother, the center bears witness to her legacy of love and generosity.
“My mother devoted her whole life to raising her children. The Pregerson Family wants to honor her memory by creating a place that will help families headed by one parent return to work or school with the confidence that their children are receiving excellent care.”
In its 11-year history, more than 800 people have lived at Westwood Transitional Village. Records indicate that 95 percent of the residents succeed at re-establishing themselves with employment and permanent housing after leaving the program.
The residents’ success can be attributed to many factors, but according to Lt. Colonel Alfred Van Cleef, divisional commander, “Westwood Transitional Village provides an environment that combines independent living with vital support services, but more importantly, encourages the residents by renewing their faith and hope. We help them build their confidence so they can overcome the obstacles which prevent them from getting and keeping a good job and housing.”
As with any Salvation Army program, the most important thing each individual will receive at Westwood Transitional Village is the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and place him at the center of their life. Divisional Evangelical Coordinator, Dr. Merrick Carter recently began a voluntary, weekly Bible study and worship service for the residents and is encouraged by their response to his teaching. “One by one, the residents are realizing their need not just for a Savior, but a Lord. They’re beginning to trust again and find that God’s abundant grace and power to change lives is for them too.”
Roslyn Long has been the executive director of Westwood Transitional Village for five years and has had the responsibility of establishing and building a program to meet the specific needs of homeless families in transition. Roslyn’s influence and leadership was never more evident than during the planning and construction phase of the new facility. “She is the glue that held this project and this program together. Roslyn helped establish this program as the premier place of refuge and support for families in West Los Angeles,” Van Cleef.
Bordered on all sides by affluent West Los Angeles neighborhoods, Westwood Transitional Village is ideally situated in close proximity to many valuable community amenities and employment. There is a city recreation center across the street, complete with basketball courts, pool, and art classes and a city park and softball field next door. The UCLA campus is 10 blocks away; the Veterans Administration complex 4 blocks away; and the Federal Building only 2 blocks away. Positioned between two major West Los Angeles streets, Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, residents will also have easy access to public transportation. The nearby communities of Westwood, Santa Monica, Culver City, Brentwood and Century City offer the residents countless work opportunities.
With the expansion of services offered at the new facility, even more families in need will be stabilized through the combination of practical and spiritual help.
Each family will work with a case manager for the duration of their stay at Westwood Transitional Village, which is a maximum of two years. A case plan, developed by the parents and the case manager assigned to oversee the family’s transition, will include specific objectives and action steps with benchmarks and deadlines to help identify areas of strength and weakness. Residents will participate in life skills courses that teach household budgeting, shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, parenting and conflict resolution.
All parents are required to work or go to school full-time. An employment counselor will be also be on site to help residents develop a career plan that utilizes input from the case manager. Partnerships with nearby Santa Monica College and the Venice Skill Center will help residents reach their career goals by providing vocational training. The two-year length of stay will allow each parent the time they need to become established in a career before moving their family back into the community.
The families will each be required to pay between $350 and $500 rent per month and put away a portion of their income in a savings account to prepare for their eventual move out of the village. Residents will also be required to attend a monthly “house meeting” to make decisions about issues of concern. A resident council will be elected from among the residents to help guide and shape policies, programs, to meet challenges and solve problems.
Other important support available to resident families includes an on-site computer learning center, a medical clinic staffed by UCLA interns, a full-time clinical therapist, and tutoring for resident children by “School on Wheels.” Families will also be able to make linkages with outside organizations to find affordable housing. Mortgage assistance will be available for those who qualify and want to purchase their first home.
Christina Wade and her seven children, ranging in ages from 3 to 12, are at Westwood Transitional Village to rebuild their lives and their family. After spending much of their lives in foster care, the Wade children are grateful to The Salvation Army for the opportunity to be reunited with one another and their mother. “This is an answer to prayer,” said Christina about her new four-bedroom apartment. “Westwood Transitional Village is giving us a fresh start. We have our whole lives ahead of us.”
For the other 39 families who now call Westwood Transitional Village home, the future is also bright. The Salvation Army in Southern California, and all the partners who make their work possible, is hard at work to keep it that way.