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Charles `Bud' Hayes, 55; Housing Advocate Worked on Skid Row

August 25, 2006|Jocelyn Y. Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Charles "Bud" Hayes, a sometimes controversial advocate who spent a decade working on downtown Los Angeles' skid row as executive director of the nonprofit SRO Housing Corp., died Aug. 12 from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident. He was 55.

In a 25-year career, Hayes was also a consultant for scores of substance abuse prevention and treatment programs in the state. His credentials included personal experiences with addiction and recovery.

"He had an enormous amount of credibility not only with me, but with the people he fought so hard to represent," said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes skid row. Hayes was born April 2, 1951, in Los Angeles and attended what is now Chaminade College Preparatory, a Catholic school in West Hills. After high school he fell into addiction, went through recovery and built a career.

In 1986, Hayes founded Social Model Recovery Systems, but it was through his work at SRO Housing that he helped change the landscape of skid row and the lives of its residents.

A century ago, single-room-occupancy hotels housed men who worked on railroads. But decades later the dilapidated hotels had become housing of last resort for the poor.

SRO Housing Corp. purchased many of the hotels, transformed them into attractive affordable housing and filled them with formerly homeless people who were trying to turn their lives around.

"If we just painted the place and left it like it was, the message would be, 'You're not worth very much,' " Hayes said in a 2001 article in Mother Jones magazine. The extensive work done on the former hotels "implies something different," he said.

For several years Hayes also served on the Los Angeles County Beach Commission and volunteered with surfing groups and ocean protection organizations.

"When he couldn't surf as much because of certain chronic health ailments, he started back on motorcycles," said Ruth Schwartz, executive director of Shelter Partnership Inc. "He always liked to have fun. That was Bud."

Hayes, who was not married at the time of his death, is survived by his mother, Nancy Hayes; brothers Bob and Bill; sisters Alison Berlin and Nancy Williams; and a stepson, Kyle Oram.

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