‘The time is ripe to take action’: Old Children’s Museum pinpointed as possible emergency homeless shelter

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Los Angeles officials are considering new sites for temporary homeless shelters in Downtown LA, including the former Children’s Museum directly across the street from City Hall.

Now vacant, the museum, which closed in 2000, is situated within the Los Angeles Mall. The 1970s shopping center is eventually slated for demolition, as the city moves forward with an overhaul of its Civic Center. In the meantime, it could house some of the roughly 2,000 people living on the streets and sidewalks of Skid Row, Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar said Tuesday.

The 14,000-square-foot museum site—along with a soon-to-open shelter beside the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument—would be insufficient to house all those on Skid Row in need of shelter.

To do that, Huizar said, the city would need to explore the possibility of leasing sites from private owners, rather than building facilities exclusively on public land (the El Pueblo and Children’s Museum sites are both owned by the city).

Officials have already identified one such site in Downtown LA—a warehouse at 1426 Paloma Street, just north of the 10 freeway. The City Council asked staffers Tuesday to research both that property and the Children’s Museum site.

“The time is ripe to take action,” said Huizar prior to the vote.

But some Downtown advocates say that action isn’t coming quickly enough. In a letter to the council, the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council urged the city to speed up the process by which shelter sites are selected and opened.

A view of the former Children’s Museum at the Los Angeles Mall.
Via Google Maps

“Unsheltered folks living in Skid Row simply cannot continue to abide while the City studies the issue of homelessness into perpetuity,” the letter says.

The push to open more temporary shelters began earlier this year, when Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a “shelter crisis” and promised to spend at least $20 million on new facilities to house residents while the city funds construction of new permanent housing through Measure HHH.

The Paloma Street site and the Children’s Museum are the latest of more than a dozen proposed sites for shelters and overnight parking facilities across the city—including a site in the heart of Koreatown that has drawn resistance from many local residents.

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