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Community News: Southwest

CRENSHAW : From Crack House to Housing for Women

November 20, 1994|ERIN J. AUBRY

For years it has been the scourge of concerned residents and a magnet for trouble, but the aging apartment building at the corner of 38th Place and Western Avenue is finally getting a new lease on life.

"People in the area are celebrating," said Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas in the wake of a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the Jane Edna Hill Housing Center for Women and Infants, a transitional housing complex that will provide needy new mothers and their children with temporary living quarters.

"When I first saw this place two years ago, it was a slum. But we've identified the problem and are taking the necessary steps to clean it up," Ridley-Thomas said of the apartment building at 1608 W. 38th Place, which will be renovated to house the center through $1.2 million in Housing Department funds.

The city helped facilitate plans with Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, which purchased the building two years ago. The property owner, on the verge of being taken to court by the city for violating several housing codes, sold it to Mt. Zion Pastor E.V. Hill. Hill then began working with the city to shape plans for the building and expedite renovation.

Hill and Ridley-Thomas said the 23-unit apartment building had long attracted crack dealers, addicts and vagrants, and was a constant complaint among area residents. After Mt. Zion acquired the property for $454,000, church officials and the city Housing Department agreed to restore its 1929 architecture and transform it into something to benefit the community.

That something is the Jane Edna Hill Housing Center, named for Hill's late wife, who was instrumental in establishing and operating Mt. Zion's World Christian Training Center, a social and community service organization.

Residents of the 25-unit center will not be allowed to stay indefinitely--organizers figure no more than three months--and will have to sign contracts in which they agree to pursue work or education during their time there. Residents will have their needs assessed and monitored by on-site social workers, doctors and psychiatrists.

"This is not a homeless shelter," said project director and consultant Ozie Hunt. "We're helping women who want to help themselves. We're not trying to create any new programs, just assist people in going where they need to go. The center will be a place where mothers can leave their babies while they go to school or look for a job."

The center is scheduled for completion next August. Ridley-Thomas, who once lived a few blocks from the building, said he is especially glad to see the project get under way. "It's a public-private partnership that's another good example of how problems in the community can get solved," he said.

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