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Storing Hope at the CCEA Check-In Center

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Friday, March 07, 2008, at 11:09AM
Bins Ed Fuentes

Rows of storage bins in the Check-In Center.

In the industrial district at the edge of Skid Row, a 24,000 square foot warehouse is home to 500 waste management bins that offer sanctuary for the possessions of a homeless population.

The Check-In Center, operated by the Central City East Association, was a highlight of the March 5th Skid Row Neighborhood Walk. The Center provides a place for homeless individuals to store their belongings, providing an alternative to simply leaving them lining the streets. Councilmember Jan Perry prefaced the tour by introducing the facility as an impressive display of resources.

Once the walk reached the warehouse, CCEA’s Estella Lopez spoke on the process of storage; how personal items or photographs are treated as valuable property. A staff member of CCEA will confirm identity, match it with a corresponding number, retrieve the bin and bring it to a holding area, where an individual can select the item(s) he or she needs. Visits can be as routine as getting a fresh shirt or medical paperwork needed for an upcoming visit to a medical facility.

The facility was opened in 2002, with the idea and staffing coming from the CCEA and warehouse space donated by property-owner Richard Meruelo. Since that startup, the warehouse has been upgraded with a computer setup that makes it efficient to locate bins and update names. Those who rent a bin must renew it every seven days. On the 8th day, unclaimed property is bagged, numbered, shelved and stored for 60 days. The rules, and the facility itself, are known in the street and referrals to the service are mostly via word of mouth.

Hotel EllisOf course, perishables, drugs, and jewelry are not allowed and steps are taken to make sure nothing off-limits makes it into a bin. Medications are numbered and placed in a special bag, and a bin can be renewed by a faxed letter or over the phone if the client is hospitalized. Despite the precautions, bin contents are offered considerable privacy by center staff.

The facility, open every day but Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, is often toured by advocates and non-profit organizations from around the nation. It's considered a model outreach program.

Word of mouth travels far for a solid idea.

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