After living in a rat-infested RV encampment, several formerly homeless Angelenos are counting their blessings this Thanksgiving holiday, grateful for a clean and warm place to call home.
William Escrivano can now say he kept a promise he made in August after he and his dog, who he says is his best friend, are about to move into permanent housing.
“I’m blessed. I’m so happy for him,” Escrivano said. “Bringing my dog off the streets, it’s the one thing I promised I would do and little by little, I’m doing it with the help of other people.”
Disabled former truck driver Robin Hapchuck said this will be the first night in a long time that her bed isn’t also her dinner table.
“That table and chairs, that’s what I like because I don’t like sitting in my bed all day,” she said.
Both Hapchuck and Escrivano used to live in an RV encampment of about 50 people on the streets of East Gardena.
“It gets too cold in those things, and the rats, the rats are terrible,” Escrivano told KTLA’s Samantha Cortese. “It was hell over there, at the RVs. We had to deal with rats every day. It was disgusting and nasty.”
Now, 20 people from that camp have signed leases to brand new apartments in the Florence-Firestone area of South Los Angeles.
“This was all done by private funding, and we didn’t use tax credits or government programs,” developer Makan Mostafadi said. “It’s essentially a net-zero building, meaning that when it rains, it captures the rainwater and goes for the landscaping and the perimeter lights are all powered by solar.”
The structure is comprised of storage containers built four stories high, and while the look is industrial on the outside, the new apartment tenants say it’s comfortable on the inside.
“It’s not just a small little square,” Escrivano said. “You have an area to walk around.”
Los Angeles County’s Pathway Home Program was launched following the county’s emergency order on homelessness. It fast tracks Measure H spending, which provides resources for physical and behavioral healthcare and substance use disorder treatment for people who want to take the next steps toward permanent housing.
The Catholic charity St. Joseph’s Center served the homeless in the interim. Kim Barnette said it’s a process that can take years. Fortunately, in this case, it was just months.
“We need to start thinking about our homeless neighbors as someone that does deserve to have a place that’s habitable, that’s beautiful, that’s worth coming home to, that they can open their fridge and get a cold drink,” Barnette told KTLA.
On Tuesday night, St. Joseph’s Center served those 20 new residents a nice, hot Thanksgiving meal, and they say that a $50 donation can serve a Thanksgiving dinner to a family of four.