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Skid Row Housing Trust's Block Party Designed to Bring Residents Together

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, December 01, 2011, at 03:42PM
Skid Row Housing Trust Block Party Skid Row Housing Trust

Flyer for Saturday's Skid Row Housing Trust block party.

Since it was established in 1989, Skid Row Housing Trust has opened 21 buildings containing 1300 residential units. That makes it one of Downtown's largest landlords, but likely one that many residents don't know all that much about.

On Saturday, the organization is having a block party where it hopes to do just a little bit to change that. The event, which will run from 1 - 4pm outside Produce Place (1326 Industrial St), a building completed in 1994 that contains 95 supportive housing units and 13 artists lofts.

The Trust has recently done other events designed at reaching the broader Downtown population, including community suppers at the Nickel Diner and Portofino and a storytellers night at The Last Bookstore.

Via email, I asked the Trust's Molly Rysman about this focus and the organization's views on Downtown.

ERIC RICHARDSON: This block party is one of a number of events you have done recently designed to bring together your residents and the broader Downtown community. Why is that important?

MOLLY RYSMAN: We strongly believe that homelessness is a crisis that can be solved. Street homelessness as we know it today only emerged in the 1980s. We have learned that for individuals the keys to solving homelessness are the combination of home and community. Once people have a safe, secure and comfortable home that they can afford, combined with meaningful connections to a support system within a community, they will never end up back on the streets. We also know that on a community-wide level we end homelessness when the community works together reach out to those on the streets and provides the resources to help people get back into a home.

We see our role at the Trust as helping bridge the connection between the broader community and those men and women who have experienced homelessness in order to both help our residents develop a sense of belonging in the community and to build commitment within the larger community to end chronic homelessness downtown.

ER: Do you find it a challenge to get past the idea that Skid Row is only a place for homeless people?

MR: We find that it only takes individuals spending a minimal amount of time in the Skid Row community to see that Skid Row is both a complex and vibrant community. Yes, many people come to Skid Row to put the pieces of their lives back together, but there is great diversity and hope within the community. People who live in Skid Row come from all sorts of backgrounds and have often overcome tremendous adversity.

Many of our residents, staff and volunteers speak about how inspiring it is to work, live and/or give back in Skid Row. On a macro-level we have a lot of problems to solve in this community, but on a personal-level there are so many great people in the community and there is incredible hope and inspiration if you can open your eyes and ears to it.

ER: Just as the folks who move Downtown have had to learn about homelessness and Skid Row, you've had to learn how to run your buildings in a newly-bustling neighborhood. What is the biggest lesson the Trust has learned from Downtown's housing boom?

We have learned that really wonderful opportunities emerge when we cultivate community. We find that the majority of new residents to downtown are moving here because of how vibrant this community is. Many people want to know their neighbors and jump at the chance to get to know neighbors who would they would otherwise not meet. When we break down the barriers of what separates each of us, we find that we all have more in common than is immediately apparent. We also find that our work is strengthened with increased input from our neighbors. Whether it be in the area of property management, social services, architecture or our development model – all of these aspects of our work benefit from increased community input.

ER: If someone can't make it out to the party on Saturday, what is another way they can get to know the Trust?

MR: We encourage downtown residents to get to know us by attending one of our monthly tours, attending one of our community suppers, or volunteering with us. We are also hosting a design panel at the Blu Dot LA store in West Hollywood on December 8th. More information about all of these opportunities is available on our website or by calling us at 213-683-0522.


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