In an effort to get more residents of the city's housing projects off the welfare rolls and into the workplace, the Los Angeles City Council approved a $1.3-million program Wednesday to establish counseling and job-training centers at some of the most problem-plagued projects.
"This is probably one of the most aggressive efforts the city has ever taken . . . bringing together the wide range of city resources with the Housing Authority and working with the residents," said Parker Anderson, general manager of the Community Development Department, which will administer the program.
2-Year Pilot Venture
The Community Service Center Program, a two-year pilot venture between the Community Development Department and the Los Angeles Housing Authority, will establish on-site service centers at five public housing developments that dot an area stretching from South-Central Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley.
Through a linkage of private employers, public agencies and the housing project residents, the program will offer job opportunities, training and services ranging from child care to basic education classes to all project residents. But the primary focus will be on the young--the teen-age mothers, welfare children and other poor youths who currently have few alternatives to unemployment and poverty.
The centers will also provide jobs to residents, hiring those within the housing developments to help run the program, said Judy Steele of the chief legislative analyst's office.
Among the sites targeted for the centers is Nickerson Gardens, one of the most notorious of the city's housing projects and one in which 67% of the residents are under 18, according to officials. The other housing projects in the program are Ramona Gardens in East Los Angeles; San Fernando Valley Gardens, Pacoima; Rancho San Pedro, Wilmington, and Mar Vista Gardens, Venice.
According to several project residents who took a bus to City Hall to urge passage of the project, just the thought of such a program has made a difference.
"We have quite a bit of problems," said Nickie Martinez, 62, who has lived in the Ramona Gardens housing project for 34 years. "(But) I can already see the change, just looking forward to the change we will have in the near future."
The centers, said Edgar Obando of San Fernando Valley Gardens, could change the course of many of his neighbors' lives.
'Death or Jail'
"The majority of people in San Fernando Gardens are living on welfare," the Spanish-speaking Obando told the City Council through an interpreter. "At the age of 9, because of the lack of resources, children start getting involved in gang activity and selling drugs. So the road open to them is death or jail. This program is critical to both adults and youth as alternatives to no opportunity."
Grant money from the 1989-90 Job Training Partnership Act will finance the project, expected to cost more than $1.3 million during its first year, Steele said.
If the program is approved by the mayor, centers at Ramona Gardens and Nickerson Gardens are expected to open by the end of July, with the others to begin operating by the end of the year, Anderson said.