On Homelessness:Learning from Experience

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A recent forum on homelessness in Glassell Park featured two residents from the Alexandria House, a privately funded, 16-unit housing condominium in Koreatown for homeless women and their children.

The experiences they shared were riveting and encouraging – and instructive in the search for solutions to homelessness.

Keana, 26, was a foster child shown the door at age 18 without any adequate preparation to care for herself. Ashley, in her early 20s, was kicked out of her home at age 16 by a step-father. Both spent years living on the street before connecting with Alexandria House, a “home between homes,” founded in 1996 and led to this day by Judy Vaughn, a Catholic nun.

At Alexandria House, which offers emergency, transitional and permanent supportive housing, the two women and their children are in a loving community of peers, off the streets, away from violence and on the path to happier, more productive lives. Their lives are not easy, but they are better, and they and their families are no longer among the estimated 15,000 women and children in L.A. County sleeping on the streets, in cars or temporarily on the couches of family and friends. 

Alexandria House shows that smaller scale housing can make a big difference in the lives of homeless people. Policymakers need to keep that in mind as they pursue big construction projects, which are also needed, but will take time.

The Glassell Park homeless forum was organized by Michael Hyland of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council and expertly moderated by Doug Smith of the Los Angeles Times.

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