FIFTY OF THE MOST chronically homeless people on Skid Row are being targeted for permanent housing under a new initiative approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The new effort, dubbed “Project 50,” calls for moving these individuals from the most concentrated area of homelessness in the county into supportive housing. The Skid Row Housing Trust has agreed to provide the units, according to the supervisors.

The L.A. initiative is modeled after “The Street to Home” strategy initiated by Common Ground in New York City. Common Ground found that the placement of these “anchors” into permanent supportive housing had a positive effect on homelessness overall.

“At the center of the initiative is the effort to end homelessness for 50 men and women who have suffered on the streets for much too long,” said Mike Alvidrez, executive director of Skid Row Housing Trust. “The larger impact, though, will be to show that homelessness can be ended, it can be ended for the hardest to serve, and we have the tools to end homelessness now. Like Common Ground Community’s Street to Home program in New York, we hope that this humble beginning will be a catalyst for a much larger effort in the future to end homelessness.”

About 73,000 homeless people live in the county. On any given night, about 22,376 chronically homeless individuals look for shelter on the streets. Although the county experienced an overall 17 percent drop in the number of homeless since 2005, Skid Row had a 40 percent increase from 3,668 in 2005 to 5,131 in 2007, according to supervisors.

County employees from different agencies are on Skid Row interviewing homeless individuals in an effort to identify those most at risk of dying on the streets, said Becky Kanis, director of innovations at Common Ground, which is consulting on the project.

At Common Ground, there’s a saying that “you can’t solve a problem unless you know exactly what the problem is,” Kanis said. This initiative aims to give the city and county information that they can act on, she said.

NLHA Establishes Scholarship Program for Residents

THE NATIONAL LEASED HOUSING ASSOCIATION (NLHA) has announced the formation of the NLHA Education Fund.

NLHA is a membership organization dedicated to the provision and preservation of federally assisted rental housing for low-income families.

The new fund will provide scholarships to eligible individuals living in federally assisted housing or Sec. 8 voucher recipients, pursuing higher education. Each is named in memory of a longtime housing advocate.

The Neil Churchill Memorial Scholarship Fund will assist college freshmen or returning undergraduates. The Bill Gandert Memorial Scholarship Fund is directed at graduating high school seniors interested in studying a specific trade. The Mary Lou Manzie Memorial Scholarship Fund will benefit “non-traditional” students in pursuing higher education or training.

The education fund is made possible through donations from affordable housing providers, lenders, and brokers. For information, visit

NHT Announces Green Loan Program

The National Housing Trust has announced a new short-term loan program to encourage the preservation of affordable housing using environmentally friendly strategies.

The Green Affordable Housing Preservation Lending Initiative will require developers to work with green experts to determine how green elements can be incorporated into their project’s design.

The National Housing Trust Community Development Fund will provide below-market predevelopment and interim development loans to nonprofit affordable housing developers who seek to incorporate green building techniques when rehabilitating existing affordable housing. Loans of up to about $110,000 are expected to be available, with terms of 12 to 18 months for predevelopment loans and 18 to 36 months for interim development loans.

Under the program, a portion of the loan may be forgiven when the developer demonstrates having incorporated environmentally friendly design elements into the property.

A grant from the Home Depot Foundation is helping to capitalize the program. For more information, visit

HANO Demolition Fight Continues

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must provide evidence of its redevelopment plans before the city will issue demolition permits for two large public housing projects, reported The Times-Picayune.

Nagin wrote a letter to HUD after a contentious public hearing in December when the City Council agreed that the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) can demolish four developments. City leaders had added conditions to the demolition approval.

Nagin’s letter went further, saying that demolition permits won’t be issued for two of the HANO projects, St. Bernard and Lafitte, until other conditions are met, including documentation of financing plans and executed development contracts, reported the newspaper.

Look for more details on New Orleans housing in the March issue.