Improving Lives

County Grant Will Provide Homeless Families In Whittier With Housing And Services

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $1 million grant to the Whittier First Day Coalition, for a new transitional housing program in the City of Whittier, Supervisor Don Knabe announced recently.

The Families Together Transitional Housing Project, which will be run by Whittier First Day, will provide transitional housing and intensive services to homeless families for up to two years. The funding for the project comes from the Fourth District’s allocation of County homeless funds, along with support and funding from the City of Whittier, foundations and the local business community.

This is an unprecedented collaboration between Los Angeles County and the City of Whittier to help families in their community break the cycle of homelessness and get back on their feet, said Supervisor Knabe. Our local communities are leading the effort to end homelessness, and Whittier has been a key partner to that end. The work we have accomplished so far to develop the Families Together project has been a successful model of city-county partnership that we hope to build on in future endeavors.

Whittier Mayor Owen Newcomer added that, the Whittier City Council was pleased to assist by channeling some federal funds to this program to help transition homeless families into stable housing and jobs. First Day’s new project will give people the opportunity that they need to work for a better future.

Safe Surrender Program Off To A Successful Year

Just weeks into 2008, the Los Angeles County Safe Surrender Program is already off to another successful year with three newborns having already been safely surrendered. These recent surrenders also included the unique occurrence of two surrenders happening on the same day. With the three surrenders since the beginning of the year, a total of 65 newborns have now been safely surrendered since the program began in 2001.

The first surrender of 2008 was a baby girl who was brought to Los Angeles County Fire Station 20 in the City of Norwalk on January 9. She was the 63rd safely surrendered baby. Baby 64 was a newborn boy surrendered at an urgent care facility in the City of Huntington Park on January 20. That same day another baby girl was surrendered at a hospital in the City of Monterey Park.

This is not the first time multiple surrenders have happened on the same day. Last year, two babies were surrendered in different parts of the County on January 17, 2007. Two different surrenders also occurred on February 10, 2007.

The Los Angeles County Safe Surrender Program was initiated by Supervisor Don Knabe and approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in 2001. It allows someone to surrender an infant that is no more than three days old, as long as the infant shows no signs of abuse.

Knabe Provides $2.5 Million For The Renovation And Expansion Of The San Pedro Service Center

A man who owes over $100,000 in child support payments and is also one of the 10 Most Wanted child support payment evaders wanted by Los Angeles County has been located and arrested through a pilot program introduced by Supervisor Don Knabe last year.

Kenneth John was arrested Friday morning in the driveway of his San Fernando Valley home and booked at the LAPD Van Nuys station because of an outstanding warrant and an outstanding child support balance of $112,369.71. John has a current support obligation is $481 per month; he was also ordered by the court to make payments of $119 per month toward the liquidation of his arrears. He last made a payment in 2002.

There has been a warrant outstanding for John’s arrest since October 2003. The warrant was issued for his failure to surrender to the Sheriff to serve 60 days in jail as ordered by the court. In addition to the 60 day sentence, John is also facing an additional 120 day suspended sentence.

John was successfully tracked down and arrested by two specialized agents working with the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department. Funding for the agents and their pilot program was initiated by Supervisor Knabe in April 2007. Knabe’s motion sought to crackdown on hundreds of the County’s most heinous child support payment evaders by establishing a partnership between the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department (CSSD) and the Office of the District Attorney.

CSSD goes to great lengths to pursue collection of child support payments on behalf of families in need, and always seeks to establish cooperative relationships with the parent required to make payments. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of parents currently in the County’s system who also go to great lengths to evade their child support obligations, even after arrest warrants have been issued for their arrest.

There are approximately 2,000 parents who fall into this category, and they owe over $2.5 million in child support payments. Before Supervisor Knabe secured $500,000 to launch the current program, CSSD did not have the means to proactively serve these warrants and seek out these parents. Under this new partnership with the District Attorney, CSSD is utilizing District Attorney Investigators to pursue these 2,000 parents.

Far too many families are struggling to pay their bills because people like Mr. John are choosing to evade or ignore their responsibilities, said Supervisor Knabe. I am very pleased to hear of the success our program is having in tracking down these uncooperative parents and getting them to pay their child support obligations.

Knabe Provides $2.5 Million For The Renovation And Expansion Of The San Pedro Service Center

To ensure that the San Pedro Service Center remains a great community resource, Supervisor Knabe recently allocated $2.5 million to be used for the renovation and expansion of the San Pedro facility.

The facility, which opened its doors in 1972, has continued to expand its services over the years, while receiving few upgrades. In an effort to improve the condition of the 35-year old facility, Supervisor Knabe worked closely with many of the groups that use the Center. The studies revealed that the Service Center has simply outgrown its current configuration and will require substantial modifications due to the shortage of space and the overall condition of the building.

With the Supervisor’s funding commitment for the project now in place, the County will begin to study how to best expand the heavily-used facility. The top priorities for the remodel and expansion include: additional rooms for senior programs, more childcare classrooms, and meeting space for local community groups. The funding for the project came from Supervisor Knabe’s Fourth District capital project account.

The San Pedro Service Center is a vital community resource, said Supervisor Knabe. I want to ensure that the Service Center, which has served the San Pedro community so well, remains a great resource for the community for another 35 years and beyond.

The San Pedro Service Center is located at 769 West Third Street in San Pedro. The Center currently provides a wide array of services to the community, ranging from a senior meals program, child care services, computer and citizenship classes, food pantry, toy loan center, and more.

Long Beach To Receive New Funding For Homeless Programs

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe announced today a $500,000 grant to the City of Long Beach to improve and enhance specialized services for homeless veterans in the Long Beach area. The grant includes a specific provision of $140,000 for the establishment of a County-funded mental health coordinator position within the City’s health department to ensure that residents, especially those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, have a greater awareness of mental health resources.

The City of Long Beach has a highly-effective continuum of care in place to address homelessness, but recent census statistics show that up to 14% of the total number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles County can be found in the Long Beach area. The goal of this new funding is to design a service program for homeless veterans and any special needs they may have. The addition of the coordinator position will ensure that individuals have knowledge of and are given access to mental health resources both the City and the County provides.

Supervisor Knabe has been a strong advocate on enhancing services for the homeless in Long Beach, and homeless veterans in particular. Earlier this year, he appropriated $1.2 million in County funding to support the US Veterans Initiative at the Villages at Cabrillo and in 2006, was instrumental in the establishment of the Bethune School for homeless children. He has also identified funding for child care and preschool services for homeless children and has pledged funding for the construction of a new family shelter for Catholic Charities. In addition, the Supervisor played a key role in the establishment of the Project Achieve shelter on Oregon Street, and continues to be the shelter’s primary source of funding.

"There are veterans living on our streets right now who are suffering and we anticipate a new influx of veterans who will be coming into our service systems that will require our help. We have to work proactively and not stand by and wait for solutions to emerge from Washington," Supervisor Knabe said, "The City of Long Beach has a strong program that is admired across the region as a model for addressing homelessness. It is my hope that this funding will enhance it even further."

$1.8 Million In Construction Contracts Awarded For Improvement of Long Beach Public Housing

The Los Angeles County Community Development Commission (CDC) – which functions as the County’s Housing Authority – received approval to award over $1.8 million in construction contracts for improvements at public housing developments located in Long Beach.

The Board of Supervisors, which acts as the CDC’s Board of Commissioners, approved contracts with M.L. Construction to replace gas lines at the Carmelitos family housing development and with Continental Flooring Company to replace flooring at the 155-unit Carmelitos senior housing complex. The Carmelitos housing community is comprised of 700 units of family and senior housing, an award-winning nursery and community garden, and on-site educational enrichment and family resource centers.

The improvements will be paid for from Capital Fund Program funds allocated by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Capital Fund Program is an important tool by which the Housing Authority ensures the long-term viability of the housing developments and affirms its commitment to quality of life for residents and their families. The Housing Authority utilizes Capital Funds to focus on modernizing major property systems such as roofing, plumbing, electrical, and the replacement of fixtures and appliances.

County to Launch Child Rating System

The County of Los Angeles will soon be launching the Steps to Excellence Program (STEP), an innovative new child care rating system to help parents make informed child care choices for their children, Supervisor Don Knabe announced at a press conference recently.

When it starts in July, STEP will be the first program of its kind in California. In much the same way as the County’s successful restaurant grading system has empowered consumers with information, the goal of rating child care centers is to educate parents and improve the quality and services of the centers.

STEP will begin by assessing more than 200 child care centers and more than 400 family child care homes in nine communities across the County, including Inglewood, Long Beach, Palmdale, Pasadena, Pomona, Santa Monica, Wilmington, Florence/Firestone, and Pacoima/Arleta. The program is supported with funds from the County of Los Angeles, the California Department of Education and the First 5 LA Commission.

This is a great opportunity to give parents access to clear, concise information about child care centers that they may not have time or the ability to research on their own, said Supervisor Knabe, who carried the concept of the program through to the Board of Supervisors. The STEP program will assess six key areas that all parents would want to know about a child care setting, including safety, program quality, teacher qualifications, and whether or not they can accommodate kids with special needs.

Child care is big business in Los Angeles County and across California. In Los Angeles County alone, it is estimated that more than $1.4 billion is spent on child care services annually and the demand for services and facilities continues to grow every year. But, with this increasing demand for services comes an increasing need for oversight and access to information for parents about the quality of care their children are receiving in these facilities, Knabe said.

Participation in STEP will be voluntary. Child care providers will first conduct a self-review of their services, and based on the results of that review, providers can either proceed directly to the rating process, or engage in training and support prior to submitting an application. On-site observations will be conducted by a trained field researcher in all STEP programs. Data from the classroom observations as well as administrative records will be considered in determining the STEP rating. A program at Step 1 will be meeting basic licensing standards, whereas a program at Step 5 will have better trained teachers, higher-teacher-to-child ratios, enriched learning environments, and stronger ties to community resources.

Child care licensing standards in the State of California are based solely on health and safety concerns, and do not address program quality, said Supervisor Knabe. The goal of this program is to rate the quality of care being offered, establish a mechanism to distinguish programs that are meeting higher standards, and provide parents a benchmark to go by when selecting a facility for their children.

The United States Veterans Initiative In Long Beach Will Receive County Funds For New Kitchen

The United States Veterans Initiative – Long Beach, located at the Villages at Cabrillo, will receive $800,000 to construct a new commercial kitchen, Supervisor Don Knabe announced today.

The new kitchen and dining area, which will serve as a location for homeless veterans to receive meals, will be located in a 6,375 square foot rehabilitated building at 2220 Williams Avenue on the grounds of the Century Villages at Cabrillo. The project consists of renovating a dilapidated kitchen, and adding a small food grill/sandwich shop that will be staffed by residents of the Veterans Initiative. The project will provide needed cooking space and storage capacity, meet the recommendations of the Veterans Affairs dietician, and create a job training program for the veterans.

The kitchen facilities that are currently at the Veterans Initiative are completely inadequate in meeting the needs of the growing veteran population, said Supervisor Knabe. I am excited about this project because these new facilities will allow the staff to prepare a variety of high quality meals for our veterans.

The total cost of the project is $800,000, with funds coming from two different sources. The first $400,000 is coming from Fourth District Capital Project funds and the remaining $400,000 will come from the $80 million in funding for Countywide homeless prevention initiatives that was approved by the Board of Supervisors last year.

Tracy High School in Cerritos Offers Toy Loan Program to Student Parents

The successful, free Toy Loan Program found throughout the County is now being offered at Tracy High School in Cerritos, Supervisor Don Knabe announced recently.

By participating in the program, students in the Teen Parent Program will receive high school credits and their children can borrow one of over 100 available toys, then return the toy and check out others. Much like a traditional library, the loan program will not only give kids the chance to enjoy a toy, it will teach them responsibility and accountability. Children who participate in the Toy Loan Program will be able to check out toys from Toyrarians at the center.

After a week, children receive a good mark if they return their toy on time and undamaged. After earning 20 good marks, children are rewarded with a brand new toy. Individuals, toy manufacturers and other companies can donate new and refurbished toys for the free program.

Genalyn Kaminsky will head up the Toy Loan Program at Tracy High School. Kaminsky is no stranger to the Toy Loan Program; for the past seven years she has been a Toyrarian at Flournoy Elementary School in Los Angeles.

The program is a collaborative effort of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Social Services.

Plan Will Keep Social Security Services in San Pedro

With the future of the San Pedro Social Security Administration (SSA) Office in jeopardy due to a scheduled closure, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe has offered a solution to use County facilities to keep the office open for business. Facing budget constraints and the scheduled end of an existing lease, the San Pedro SSA office is set to close in October 2008.

Concerned about the negative impact such a closure would have on the community, Supervisor Knabe collaborated with other local elected officials to keep the much-needed services local. Supervisor Knabe offered the free use of office space in the County’s San Pedro Service Center in an effort to maintain the SSA presence in San Pedro.

Approximately 300 people visit the San Pedro Social Security Office on daily basis, many of whom are senior citizens or those with disabilities. The next closest SSA Office is the Long Beach District Office, which is eight miles away.

Removing Social Security services from San Pedro would be very problematic for many of our elderly and disabled residents in this community who need these services, said Supervisor Knabe. Using the San Pedro Service Center as a Social Security site is a practical way of keeping these vital services in this community.