With the opening up of Abbey Apartments, the chronically homeless now have a chance to have a permanent roof over their heads.
April 16 – The smell of freshly painted walls and new hard wood floors greets you as you enter Hugo Gonzalez’s apartment. Furnished with a twin size bed, a dresser and a small table and equipped with all the amenities of a kitchen –Gonzalez calls this home.
“I used to be on the streets,” Gonzalez said. “Everything is different now because I have a home.”
As the first affordable housing unit to provide medical, mental health and social services, the Abbey Apartments, located on 625 S. San Pedro St., is the 21st property developed by Skid Row Housing Trust. The Abbey has opened up and has given over a 100 chronically homeless men and women of Skid Row a chance to start new in an apartment they can call their own. Rent is based on income.
“This development is designed to bring in the homeless from the cold and get them off the streets,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “To provide services and housing that many of our families need. This apartment complex serves as a solution to the problem of homelessness by paring a warm bed with affordable health care. A place where mothers and daughters and fathers and sons have a path to self sufficiency and self respect.”
Life in the Abbey for Gonzalez offers him a different view of how his life was and how it is today. He looks out his window and points across the street, where several people are. A few of them are smoking, others are talking and one looks straight ahead. Inside his apartment, Gonzalez shudders as he remembers the days he was ruled by his drug addiction which lead him to live on the same streets.
“When I used to see people doing drugs out on the streets, I remember having that temptation. I remember wanting the drugs. So I would use all the money I had and spend it on drugs. I lost my job, my family, everything because of the drugs.” Gonzalez said. “Now, that I’ve been clean, I look out the window and I don’t see the drugs anymore. Instead I see the condition and I don’t like the condition at all.”
Looking outside of Karen Burton’s apartment window, Volunteers of America can be seen where several people live in tents and sleep on the hard cement floor.
Burton’s story is similar to Gonzalez’s. She had been living off the streets, doing drugs and had been in and out of prison. Burton said she had been clean at times, but she always went into relapse but today it is different, with her own kitchen, bed and space Burton is fully equipped and getting her life back on track.
“My mom is proud of me,” Burton said. “She came up to me and said, ‘Even though I’ve seen you clean before, this is the first time I can actually feel it.’”
Gonzalez and Burton have both gone back to school. With only three more units left, Burton is studying to finish her Associate’s Degree at L.A. Community College and Gonzalez is studying computers and auto mechanics at L.A. Trade School.
“Here on Skid Row the winds of change are picking up speed,” Villaraigosa said. “Progress is being made and our battle to give every Angeleno a chance to survive is getting one step closer to victory.”