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Temporary homeless shelter closes in Highland Park but advocates working on opening permanent refuge

Church served as temporary homeless shelter

Church served as temporary homeless shelter

By LUCY GUANUNA

HIGHLAND PARK
— Northeast L.A.’s only homeless shelter closed its doors a few weeks ago after serving as a temporary refuge during the winter months. But organizers and supporters are working to open a permanent, year-around shelter and resource center for those that remain on the streets of NELA.

Recycled Resources, a nonprofit dedicated to serving the homeless, spearheaded the formation and operation of the Northeast Los Angeles Winter Access Center at All Saints Episcopal Church  on Monte Vista Street. With heavy El Niño rains forecasted, the group received $80,000 from the city as well as donations to open the temporary emergency shelter to serve NELA, where an estimated 800 homeless live.

While the heavy El Nino rains never materialized, the homeless did show up at the center. At capacity, the shelter housed 35 people that slept on the pews in the church’s nave.

“The need for a shelter in Northeast Los Angeles was evident because every night the shelter was filled to capacity, and on some nights they had to turn some people away,” said Natalie Komuro, executive director of Ascencia, a Glendale homeless services agency and fiscal advisor to the winter shelter.

Komuro said that most of those that came through the church’s doors were entered into a county-wide system that matches people to available housing, resources and services.

John Urquiza, an organizer with the NELA Homeless Coalition, said that numerous people were transitioned into housing during his time volunteering at the shelter.

In an interview last November, Rebecca Prine of Recycled Resources said she had hopes of turning other sections of the church into a permanent shelter and access center. But those plans fell through.

“These programs are pretty hard on property and for a church to host it is truly wonderful thing,” Komuro said. “But the reality is that there is a lot of repairs that you have to make because it’s a more intensive use of the premises.”

Ascencia hopes to work with Recycled Resources on opening a permanent shelter in NELA in the future. Komuro said Recycled Resources is currently pursuing a site for a year-round program that would be a 24-hour facility for chronically homeless adults .

“Ascencia has been very interested in supporting the expansion of services for homeless people in NELA and would be happy to work with Recycled Resources in making that a reality,” said Komuro.

Lucy Guanuna is a freelance reporter who has covered a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

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