The historic 150-room King Edward Hotel on the edge of Skid Row is set to be used for transitional housing for homeless people.
The 1906 hotel has been purchased by Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation), a program that aims to provide faster access to longer-term housing for unsheltered individuals, with priority given to those with chronic health conditions.
Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF has already purchased the 220-room Madison Hotel on Seventh Street and the 27-room former Sunset 8 Motel in Hollywood (renamed Sunrise on Sunset). The latter will house parents and their children who are currently homeless or are likely to be soon.
Samantha Granberry, executive director of the Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF and vice president of AHF sales and strategic partnerships, said the Madison and Sunset 8 purchases have been successful and are a model for how the King Edward Hotel will operate.
“We opened up the doors to the affordable housing at the Madison on Feb. 14 [of this year], Valentine’s Day,” Granberry said. “Within less than 60 days' time we had reached capacity with those who are either at risk of homelessness, or previously had been living in shelters and were just not able to afford any rent within the city of Los Angeles due to them only having perhaps disability, SSI, things of that nature.”
The AHF is addressing concerns about ongoing support for residents affected by mental health issues and addiction through wraparound counseling services.
“We’re working with various partners, one of the most prominent being Chirp L.A., which is a group that offers community health resources for homeless people, including wraparound services of jobs, health care, mental health, etc., so we can connect them with case workers,” Granberry said. “Healthy housing is not our area of expertise, but we see the need and we want to ensure those tenants living on those properties have easy access to those services.”
AHF has carved out free office space in the Madison to organizations that will partner with AHF so they can be on site to find and connect with people who need their services, she added. The same model is used at Sunrise on Sunset, the transitional living house, and will be used at the King Edward when it opens in mid-summer.
Advocates from the Healthy Housing Foundation and AHF held a press conference on Monday to announce their purchase of the King Edward Hotel and to challenge city officials to adopt the SRO (single-room-occupancy) hotel model, which they have successfully used with the Madison, they said.
“We want to be the example and ideally the leader so that others will follow suit, so that we can show what can be done beyond just words,” Granberry said. “If we put in a little bit of action, have a cost-effective model, we can truly solve this housing crisis."
The model is far cheaper than the units that will be built under the city's Measure HHH — those cost an estimated $434,000 per unit to construct, they said. And it will be open much earlier. Housing projects being done through Measure HHH might not be available until the fall or winter of 2019, AHF officials said.
Creating the units at the King Edward Hotel will cost less than $80,000, according to Granberry.
“As the homeless crisis in Los Angeles continues to grow to an almost unfathomable scale, we found and are pursuing an innovative, far less costly way to provide a roof over one’s head for many previously homeless or at-risk individuals through the purchase and redeployment of single-room-occupancy hotels like the historic King Edward Hotel,” Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, said in a press release.
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Ileana Wachtel, communications director with the Coalition to Preserve L.A., said that it benefits everyone if buildings such as the King Edward are renovated, used and preserved.
“We’re pushing the city to do a similar thing,” Wachtel said. “They did pass the hotel/motel conversion ordinance, which AHF has been doing with the Madison, Sunset and King Edward. The Healthy Housing Foundation is looking at different buildings and they’re definitely keeping their eye out."
Ultimately, Granberry is feeling positive about the AHF's mission to create a model to move people from homelessness to home ownership.
“We’re showing it as a hope for others to follow suit," she said.