National Health Foundation Bonds With Community, Shelters Recuperating Homeless

The National Health Foundation, a local non-profit, used tax money from measures H and HHH to do something very few have been able to do successfully.

"Housing is one of the primary social determinants that affects a person's ability to be healthy and so NHF has an impact on that through its recuperative care programs," National Health Foundation President and CEO Kelly Bruno says.

Bruno says the 61-bed recuperative care facility in the Pico-Union area could not have been possible without first connecting with those who lived in the area.

"When you involve the community from the beginning and you let them be a driver alongside of you, you will be successful," Bruno says. "If you miss that piece, you will not."

Maria Diaz said she didn't even feel safe walking by the site, a former rehab clinic that had fallen into disrepair. And to hear a new facility would be catering to the homeless population didn't quite make it any better. Until, she says, she realized the reality of what they do here.

Guests arrive direct from local hospitals. They're recuperating from different ailments but share one thing in common: They have no other place to go.

Melvin Young, a guest, was homeless in Venice. He became so dehydrated that he ended up in the hospital. To avoid just being tossed back into the streets, the hospital connected him with National Health Foundation.

"God brought me here, in this direction because I didn't know which direction I was going," Young says.

Young adds, "This place offers me peace of mind, strength, because the people here, they encourage me."

Recuperative Director Lupe Moreno says, "It's about dignifying who they are."

The facility opened in November and does much more than help the guests who live here with social services and future housing; it encompasses the vibrance of the Pico-Union neighbors that surround it.

A community garden is on site for anyone to use. A family room invites speakers for different community workshops. Outside the gates, plans are in the works to beautify the whole block. And while it wasn't easy getting to this point, it's connected a community to a crisis: a homeless crisis that could very well improve thanks to a willingness to understand what works.

National Health Foundation COO Mia Arias says, "There was a lot of questions. There was skepticism. I think that's natural."

Arias adds, "We changed attitudes by bringing them along."

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