On Monday morning, Lois Lee, founder of Children of the Night, realized the culmination of a 13-year goal. The organization, which is dedicated to helping teen-age prostitutes, opened its first shelter--and it was far from the streets of Hollywood normally associated with child prostitution.
"When the pimps started pulling out of Hollywood because it got too rough, so did we," said Lee.
The new $2-million, 24-bed facility is in the building that used to house the old Van Nuys post office, which was purchased in 1989 and converted over the last few years. Trimmed in marble and decorated throughout in soft lighting and pastels, the shelter features a classroom, kitchen, laundry facilities, a yard and counseling and administrative offices.
Teen-age girls, from among those who call the group's toll-free hot line, will stay in the shelter for 60 days and receive a regimented schedule of classes, counseling and activities designed to reintegrate them into society. Job training and placement, along with health and financial aid, are among the follow-up services provided by Children of the Night.
Among those attending Monday's dedication were Los Angeles deputy police chief Mark Kroeker; City Atty. James Hahn; Brett Laurita and Cynthia Aguilar, the architect and interior designer of the facility; and Hollywood supporters Lar Park Lincoln, Tammy Lauren and Traci Lords.
Lords, who appeared in adult films as a juvenile before pursuing a legitimate Hollywood career, made a public service announcement for Children of the Night three years ago. The result was a tripling of calls from children to the organization, according to Lords. "The kids really responded, because they knew I'd been there," Lords said, adding that she and her husband, Brook Yeaton, hope to make a documentary about Children of the Night.
Like all of Children of the Night's services, the shelter was built entirely through private donations of time and money. Lee has refused government funds, saying, "We're into quality care and changing people's lives around. We're not into pages and pages of statistics and paperwork."
She described herself as "frustrated" that the group had not yet been able to move children into the new shelter. Final touches on the facility had been completed so quickly that a community care license from the state had yet to be issued. "It's bureaucratic red tape. They're saying one more week," Lee said, sitting in the fenced back yard as supporters toured the immaculate new shelter. "I hope so, because they said 'one more week' two weeks ago."