The letter the Los Angeles House of Ruth got from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority came straight out of the blue last April. It said the domestic violence shelter’s funding from HUD was going to cease as of April 30.
“I just about went crazy,” says Sister of Social Service Jennifer Gaeta, who oversees operations at the shelter. “I thought it would close us.”
But the local House of Ruth, which actually occupies three houses in Boyle Heights, survived, although it’s had to radically change. It found “bridge” funding to get through the fiscal year ending June 30. Then five members of the staff of 17 had to be laid off, including a house manager. The popular child care program was closed. Money to provide therapy and case management to often-troubled clients suddenly dried up.
And the agency became a 90-day crisis shelter versus a months-long program for victims of domestic violence — with the kicker being the place is still serving the same population.
“So we’re no longer funded for domestic abuse victims, although that’s who we’re getting,” reports Sister Jennifer. “And I would say 90 days is extremely too short to really help them. We’re creating the next generation of homeless families, because we’re not serving young families and their kids.
“The priority is on chronic homeless, who are deserving. Every homeless individual is deserving. I don’t want to compete with who is more deserving. But to focus only on the Skid Row guys and chronic homelessness isn’t good, either.
“We’ve got these new homeless young families, a lot of them coming out of foster care. And they’re not being served,” she points out. “They go right into gangs and drugs and the welfare system. So it’s all starting over again, where we were able to have some good level of success before.”
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Jesuit ministries seeking to make an impact on homelessness