When the Aviva Respite Shelter opens in the San Fernando Valley this week, it will be the first shelter of its kind in the Valley and the first short-term crisis shelter in Los Angeles exclusively for girls. It will also be a finger in the dike. It will add six beds to the existing 26 crisis shelter beds for the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 homeless and runaway young people in Los Angeles County, according to shelter director Carlyn Lambert.
It will provide a place to stay and counseling for from one to 30 days for girls 12 to 18, serving girls who are in trouble and in conflict with their families and those who have fled abusive homes, Lambert said.
The respite shelter is a new project of the Aviva Center (formerly Hamburger Home) in Hollywood, and is funded by the city's Development Department, United Way and Jewish Family Services.
"Police reports indicate that the greatest number of missing and homeless children come from the Valley, but the only shelters for kids were in (other parts of) Los Angeles," Lambert said. In 1983, there were 4,240 juveniles reported missing from the Valley, the highest figure for any area of the city. Runaways' resources for shelter are Options House in Hollywood with 12 beds; the Homeless Youth Project at the Hollywood YMCA (two beds); Stepping Stone in Santa Monica (six beds); 1736 House in Hermosa Beach (six beds). In addition, the Los Angeles County Probation Department has very short-term shelter, usually a couple of days, Lambert said, but many needy kids are put off by this contact with authorities.
"A lot of the agencies report having a high percentage of Valley kids who need help," said Lambert, who served as co-director of the Homeless Youth Project before coming to Aviva. "It's hard for them to get into L.A. or to serve them there away from their families and contacts. It's harder for them to get jobs. They don't know the area." Nor is coming into Hollywood for shelter the best option for kids, she said. "We want to keep them away from where they're more easily exploited, where there are more dangerous populations."
Therapy for girls and, in many cases, for their families will be an essential part of the shelter's service. The staff will include Lambert, who has a master's degree in social work, counselors, psychiatric consultants and overnight child care staff. In her experience, Lambert said: "I think most of the kids who have run away--especially the ones who've been on the streets awhile, the chronic runaways--almost always come from abusive families. Then there are the families in crisis, with the kid acting out and everybody screaming at each other. Teen-parent conflicts are notorious, especially with single parents, such as a single mother who also has to think about earning a living and having some life of her own."
The parent agency in Hollywood changed its name from Hamburger Home to Aviva Center last year, said development director Lee Alpern, reflecting changes in its services that in turn reflect changes in the needs of youth. Founded in 1915, Hamburger Home provided board for working girls into the early 1960s, Alpern said. "At that time it was uncommon for a young working girl to have her own apartment. Then (in the mid-'60s) we found out there was a new kind of problem--younger, abused girls who needed a place to stay."
Victims of Abuse
The Aviva Center is now home to 33 teens, some of whom have left their families because of physical, emotional or sexual abuse and others who are on probation. They attend a county high school on the premises or Hollywood High. Aviva has added a hot line and, recently, said Alpern, a graduate program--when a girl turns 18 and has a job but doesn't know where to live, she may stay six months more and receive help in getting a start on her own. The Valley respite shelter is Aviva's newest project.
Aviva Center's 1983-'84 annual report presents a partial picture of the troubled teen-age girl in Los Angeles. Of the 86 girls who stayed at the Hollywood home during the report period, 59% were victims of physical or sexual abuse, or both. Three-quarters of them previously had been placed in institutions or foster homes, one-quarter of them in both. Nearly one-fourth of them had attempted suicide, 30% had a history of drug use and 25% of alcohol use. Only 8% came from a home in which the family was intact. Half were white, 25% black and 14% Latino. The largest number, 31%, were 17 years old, 25% were 16, 23% were 14 and 6% 13 years old.
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California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird will speak at a reception Friday at the Chaya Brasserie restaurant honoring the Friends and Associates of the Battered Women's Legal Counseling Clinic. The organization also announced that Frances Lear has renewed her endowment to the clinic for a third year.