The People We Help
Where our shelter clients come from
Friends or Relatives
Domestic Violence Situation
Clients served (by age)
0 - 9
10 - 17
18 - 54
The residents served in our shelters and apartments represent a broad spectrum of income, geographic and ethnic diversity.
LAFH serves homeless and low-income families with children and single adults who arrive at the agency from all points throughout the City of Los Angeles. One hundred percent (100%) of LAFH
clients are classified as low- or very low-income, with most earning below 30% of the Area Median Income ($64,833 in Los Angeles). On average, clients served are 39% African-American, 37% Hispanic, 18% Caucasian, 2% Asian / Pacific Islander, 1% Native American, and 3% Multi-ethnic. The unique design of our shelters allows us to keep families intact and serve diverse client
compositions, including families with both parents, boys over 12 years, residents with HIV/AIDS, residents who are physically or mentally disabled, veterans with children, same sex partners, and foster youth who are reunited with their biological families.
Once Fara and her children got the housing they needed, the family was able to focus on healing from the effects of chronic homelessness. Through mental health support, life skills classes, and volunteer activities, the family was able to rebuild their lives.
Instability and homelessness began for Farah the day she had her first daughter (also named Fara.) Her husband lost his job and the teenage parents could not make ends meet. For years, the cycle continued until they eventually split up. Her husband took the oldest children and bounced around from shelter to shelter. Meanwhile, Farah survived with the two babies, living in a car for over a year.
Finally, Fara reunited with her eldest children and established a safe home for her family during the two years they lived at LAFH.
Newly single and experiencing severe depression during those turbulent years, Fara received mental-health support and life skills coaching so she could build a new life for her kids. Meanwhile, her children finally felt safe and stable for the first time in their lives. At LAFH, they came out of their shells through the theater and crafts workshops offered by volunteers.
Today, the kids are excelling in school, and they do not see homelessness in their future. They have been in their own home for three years now.
"I made bad choices. I was always looking for the easier way, the quicker way." Greg had a loving family and owned two homes. Alcoholism and drug addiction slowly consumed him. His only home soon became a bench in North Hollywood Park. For five years, Greg toiled on the streets. He became resigned to the fact that he’d never see his two grown children again.
Greg tried treatment programs with limited success. In 2008, however, something clicked. "I got tired of sleeping in the rain." Even more, he missed his family. He entered treatment at People In Progress, an LAFH service partner, and completed a six-month recovery stay. From there, he secured temporary housing placement at LAFH’s Trudy & Norman Louis Valley Shelter, where he stayed sober, began building his income, and worked to find a supportive permanent home.
"I changed my whole way of thinking at LAFH. They work with you and give you respect. They encourage you. I’m ready for a nice little place, even one room. Just a place to call home."
The place arrived in January, when LAFH opened its first Permanent Supportive Housing property, Palo Verde. Greg pays rent for a studio apartment – much bigger than the one room he imagined – and takes advantage of the on-site recovery services to help him maintain his sobriety. Soon after moving in, his son visited him for the first time in 12 years.
Right before his move home, still living in the shelter, Greg received a cake to celebrate his sobriety anniversary. It was from two LAPD officers who arrested him multiple times from the park. Greg’s full circle moment had arrived. "Being responsible is not easy. I’ve amazed myself because I’ve followed through and achieved goals that I never imagined."
Christina remembers two years ago when her 8-year-old son, Randy, asked, "Mom, when are we gonna get a home?" At the time, the Fontes family was sleeping in the back of their rusted '92 Ford Explorer in a Ralph's parking lot. It was around the same time that a new sign appeared in front of their truck: No Overnight Parking.
Since Christina and her husband Carlos lost their jobs in late 2008, the Fonteses were homeless. They had tried shelters that could only accommodate single parent families, but the kids, Randy and 11-year-old Cassandra, insisted on the flatbed over the cot to keep their family together. Forced from their temporary parking space, the Fonteses found refuge in a family shelter on Skid Row. The neighborhood was too rough for the children, though, and once a unit became available at Comunidad Cesar Chavez, LAFH's emergency family shelter in Boyle Heights, "a whole new world opened up for us."
Soon the family moved into TLC, where Carlos achieved his employment and education goals within months - finding full-time construction work and enrolling in night school. Christina's goal, always the same, was to see her kids flourish. Once stabilized at LAFH, Randy began earning straight As in the fourth grade and took a lead role in Student Council at Korenstein Elementary. Cassandra, who recently entered high school, reversed her Ds into Bs and was chosen as one of 30 out of 1,700 students for a trip to the White House to talk about community service with President Obama. By all measures, Mom's goal had been met.
When Cassandra returned to Los Angeles, the Fonteses had found an affordable apartment, and the whole family transitioned into their new home shortly thereafter. There was no need for a street sign to move them on this time. The Fontes family earned their last move, and they’ve remained successful and stable in their North Hollywood apartment for more than a year now.
Ashley was only four years old when severe parental abuse left her in a coma. Her mother doused her with gasoline and set her on fire, split her head open, and left her alone in bed, wrapped in duct tape, for three days. Ashley’s aunt found her and rushed her to the hospital, where she remained in a coma for six months. When she woke, she couldn’t remember her name, and she had nowhere to go. Ashley entered the foster care system at five years of age.
She had trouble coping with her mental illness and went through more foster homes than she can remember. At 17, Ashley decided sleeping on cement was preferable to difficult foster care placements or juvenile hall. But asking for money outside 7-Eleven took its toll. "This was the lowest point of my life. I felt hopeless." A social worker at Ashley’s school referred her to Hillview, a mental health center for the homeless. Ashley received the appropriate treatment and medication, and soon her mood swings and impulsiveness vanished.
Four years later, Hillview helped Ashley fill out a tenant application for a permanent supportive housing unit at LAFH. She could not contain her excitement. "I’ve never had a place of my own before!"
Now 22, Ashley is thriving at Palo Verde. She opened her first bank account. She attends serenity groups. She leads an art club for other tenants (her love for acrylic painting can be seen across her new apartment walls). Ashley is working on securing her GED and enrolling in college, where she wants to study to become a chef.
"Now I only have to think about my grades and paying rent on time. I am so grateful for the investments made in my life."
Parents of four children, the Figueroas succeeded with securing a steady income and a three-bedroom apartment at Harmony Place, one of 19 affordable rental properties owned by LAFH, after several months of homelessness. They began having trouble paying their rent after Mr. Figueroa was hospitalized due to complications from diabetes. Ms. Figueroa, whose job was to provide in-home healthcare services to her husband, lost her income when he was admitted to the hospital. Although the family continued to receive income from Mr. Figueroa’s SSI benefits, it wasn’t sufficient to meet all of the household’s financial obligations. One of the first services provided to the family post-placement was money management. An LAFH Housing Stability Coordinator worked with the family to develop a monthly budget that would help them retain their housing.
Two weeks after the family enrolled in the program, Mr. Figueroa passed away during surgery. In addition to providing support in this difficult time, LAFH met with Ms. Figueroa to address the family’s long-term needs. Falling behind in rent and close to losing their apartment, LAFH focused on benefits advocacy (helping Ms. Figueroa secure survivor benefits for her children) and employment services (assisting Ms. Figueroa to prepare for and enter the workplace). In addition to services, LAFH was able to secure short-term rental assistance provided by an emergency foundation grant. The wraparound support made it possible for the family to stabilize in their housing while they address other immediate needs (e.g. funeral arrangements, securing entitlement benefits). Their loss now behind them, the Figueroa family has secured a stable path to keep their home for good.
Happy at Home: The Buygard Family
For two years, Lisa lived in a dry creek expanse on the edge of the Angeles National Forest called the Big Tujunga Wash. Her home was shared by almost a dozen people like Lisa, who became homeless after several significant endings in her life - her long-term relationship, full-time job, and sobriety. "One by one, I was losing everything." She says she was too ashamed to ask for help, so she wound up living on the streets of Sunland/Tujunga. When Lisa lost her job, heavy drinking followed. "I was worn down, and I just wanted to numb myself. I wanted to forget." Before moving to the Wash, Lisa would find sleep on park benches and in parking lots behind grocery stores. The rainy seasons were tough. "There’s really nowhere to go that doesn’t get wet."
Getting off of the literal streets, life in the Big Tujunga Wash became comfortable. Lisa felt part of a community. She knew where she was sleeping every night, even if it was in a tent along a creek. So when an L.A. Family Housing outreach team found her on a cool November day in 2010, she hesitated. Her pride remained strong, and she was skeptical of entering another shelter system, having "been there, done that" with no success. When more than just shelter was promised, Lisa turned optimistic. She was ready for the help LAFH offered.
Lisa moved into the agency's Trudy & Norman Louis Valley Shelter immediately. She developed a plan to keep her out of the Wash for good. LAFH referred her to recovery treatment, enrolled her in employment classes, and began working on a housing plan to help Lisa achieve self-sufficiency in a permanent home. Soon, Lisa stopped drinking and focused on finding her stability. "The shelter turned my life around. They gave me back my humanity, my confidence, my self-worth."
She stayed at Valley Shelter for 11 months before applying for tenancy at LAFH's new Palo Verde apartments, which provide on-site services including employment and recovery counseling. Lisa was stunned when she found out she secured a unit. "If I was told a year ago that I would be getting a place of my own, I would have never believed it." Once her new life is settled, Lisa plans on coming back to Valley Shelter to volunteer.
She wants to help others find a home like she has now. "I won’t waste this opportunity. All I can say is thank you."
Cecilia and Larry began as high school sweethearts. They were both attending college, but soon student loans piled up as their scholarship funding was cut back. They were left with considerable debt and no way to pay rent in Los Angeles. They stayed with family for a while, but were eventually crowded out when even more family came to live in the same house. Cecilia and Larry were out of options and moved into LAFH’s Sydney M. Irmas Transitional Living Center in July 2010 with their three sons - Larry III, John, and baby Kenji.
The turnaround for the Caldwell family was remarkable. Larry was soon on his way to becoming a master technician in the automotive industry, and Cecilia began working full-time while studying to become a nurse. After a year of saving money and working a service plan with their Case Manager, the Caldwells moved out of the shelter in September 2011 to their new home in Watts.
Larry and Cecilia are grateful to LAFH for providing the stability that allowed their sons to attend a nearby school, and ultimately for putting a roof over their heads. "It’s been simply amazing."
“I want people to understand the choices I’ve made. Hearing from others’ experiences was one of the only ways I learned how to pick myself up.”
Lamore Holliday was drafted to the Army in 1969 and served as a sergeant on the front lines in Vietnam. This is where he picked up his drug habit. He’d smoke anything he could get his hands on to wipe away the images of war piling up in his head. “I went completely insane from what I saw and did over there.” He was discharged when his habit became unmanageable, and Lamore found himself in California, looking to start a new life as he coped with onset of PTSD and his ongoing addiction.
He came from a family of barbers, so he secured his barbers’ license and became known for doing the best curl in South LA. “Ten curls a day at $175 a pop was plenty for me to get really good dope.” During this time, Lamore married and had kids. He managed his drug habit while raising a family, owning two houses, and operating a successful barbershop. Then in 2000, a tragic house fire killed his son. Lamore spiraled and lost everything that mattered to him.
He spent nearly a decade living on the streets, occasionally finding a warm bed in prison or drug treatment center. With encouragement from his daughter, Lamore entered LAFH’s Trudy & Norman Louis Valley Shelter in 2009, where he finally picked himself up. “No matter how much I tried, I could not beat this program. The people at LA Family Housing, they really want to see you succeed.” Here, Lamore cleaned up his habit, accessed health and disability benefits, and began receiving treatment and medication for his mental illness.
Lamore was one of the first tenants to move into Palo Verde, the agency’s first permanent supportive housing property, when it opened in 2012, where he now accesses on-site NA meetings and is famous in the building for his cooking and hair-cutting prowess.
“I have seven grandkids, all wanting fades. Those are $20 these days, so I’m helping my daughter out. It’s just nice to have a home where they can visit their grandpa.”
You can see Lamore occasionally at LAFH volunteer events, helping in any way he can and telling his story to anyone who will listen. He’s thankful for his new home and for the chance to give back. “You have to give in order to receive. If I can make a difference in a young person’s life by sharing my story, then it makes me feel like I have a purpose.”
When her husband was killed by gunfire in 2005, Marina Kurbessian lost everything – her home, her sobriety, and custody of her 8-year-old daughter Paulina. Time in prison followed by life on the streets made her realize how important her daughter was to her. Marina set her mind on regaining custody of Paulina from the foster care system. She enrolled in a drug treatment program and got herself into Valley Shelter, L.A. Family Housing’s temporary shelter for single adults.
Once stable, Marina found a job and kicked her drug habit. LAFH arranged for her to move to its transitional living program for families so that she could complete the reunification process with Paulina by proving to the courts that she had safe and secure housing for both of them. Together again, Marina and Paulina look forward to their new life that includes secure employment, steadfast sobriety, and stable housing. For now though, Paulina is simply enjoying her time back with her mom.
The Mercado Family has been living in L.A. Family Housing’s affordable rental property, Vanowen Gardens in North Hollywood, for 10 years. They always paid their rent on time until this year. Both parents, Martha and Gabriel, lost full-time employment in April. Martha was working as a clerk at a local law firm until the firm made budget cuts and she was laid-off. Gabriel, a contract plumber, began getting fewer calls for work.
The family has three children. The two eldest, Carla and Chayanne, are in post-secondary school. The youngest, Oliver, was born with a developmental disorder called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, or CdLS. The disorder restricts his movement and requires constant care and supervision, including from his pup, Ollie Jr., who has picked up Oliver’s breathing patterns and will bark when Oliver has respiratory problems during sleep. Soon after their steady income precipitously declined, the family burned through what little savings they had to stay on top of their rent. On the verge of losing their apartment, the family immediately received support services from LAFH in the form of employment counseling and job search help. With the agency’s employer connections, Gabriel found steady work with a plumbing company, and the two eldest children found part-time jobs to help supplement the family’s income. The Mercados haven’t missed another rental payment. The assistance kept them in their apartment and motivated them to participate in budget management classes, where they’re learning to manage their income better in case they need to survive another situation like this one.
Martha hasn’t found another job yet, but seems okay with that for now. She gets to spend her days with her son Oliver, something she missed when trying to make ends meet. Thanks to LAFH’s assistance, the Mercados have peace of mind and the urgency to succeed.
“We spent months sleeping in an office space because that was all I could afford to rent. I had to take showers at the gym, and my boys used a friend’s place.”
When his wife’s alcoholism grew worse, Alpha often had to miss work to take care of his two boys. Eventually, with no steady income, Alpha and his sons became homeless. They slept in the car for a while, then on friends’ couches, and then in an unused office space.
They managed like that for a year, but Alpha was running out of options. Finally, he found LAFH. “It was the first glimmer of hope I’d had in a long time.”
Through permanent housing and employment counseling, LAFH provided Alpha the fresh start he needed, and he soon got a full-time job at Target. “I’m ready to go to the next level, even go to school, but right now I’m trying to be financially stable first.”
“Not giving up was the most important thing for me. I’ve been through a lot with my kids, but one thing I know—I never give up.”
The Issues We're Facing
LA COUNTY'S HOMELESS CRISIS
51,340 Homeless People in LA County
Have 1 or More Disabilities
Are Living on the Streets
Cause of Increased Homeless Rates
Increased General Population
Shrinking Employment Market
of Affordable Housing
Compromised Heath & Education
Unemployment rate averaging 12% for more than three years
A person earning a minimum wage of $8.00/hour must work at least 70 hours/week to pay the average rent of $1,400 for a two-bedroom apartment
The majority of families are uninsured and subject to various health-threatening conditions. Nearly half of residents under 18 have significant drops in school attendance.
With high unemployment, lack of access to healthcare and education, and a shortage of affordable housing, Los Angeles has become the homeless capital of the United States.
As the leading provider of homeless, safety-net and affordable housing services in the San Fernando Valley, L.A. Family Housing faces unique community challenges distinct from the greater Los Angeles region. The San Fernando Valley encompasses Service Planning Area (SPA) 2, the largest geographic SPA in Los Angeles, yet it is arguably the most underserved region in the city. Home to nearly 20% of LA’s homeless population (approximately 8,000 people), the region struggles to reach those in need due to the expansiveness of the area and the lack of sufficient resources available.
LAFH not only accommodates the majority of SPA 2’s homeless population, but with recent upticks of first-time homeless households and our unique ability to keep families together, LAFH continues to meet a rise in need from Metro and South Los Angeles as well.