L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Homeless

Cardborigami foldable shelters move closer to launch

CardborigamiSometimes it takes an eye-catching design to bring attention to society’s most pressing issues. At least that’s the idea behind Cardborigami, a temporary, portable and recyclable shelter made by an L.A. nonprofit hoping to serve the city’s 51,000 homeless people.

“I thought making something more lighthearted and kind of fun and playful would make [homelessness] easier to deal with and get people involved who wouldn’t normally be,” said Cardborigami designer Tina Hovsepian, pictured at right. She showcased her work at the recent Altbuild show as well as last year's Dwell on Design show, and she recently said she plans to launch the product later this year.

The Cardborigami shelters have been prototyped in a Mondrian-esque design as well as traditional cardboard brown. Though Cardborigami was originally designed to help the homeless, just 38% of whom have access to a shelter, Cardborigami "can be used for so many different things,” said Hovsepian, 25, who works at the Venice firm Duvivier Architects. She said she intends to sell Cardborigami as an educational toy and possibly as an alternative tent for camping or as disaster preparedness equipment.

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KnitRiot guerrilla knitters leave mark at PATH homeless center


The guerrilla knitters from the Los Angeles collective KnitRiot have struck again: The anonymous crafters quietly turned up Saturday at the PATH homeless center in East Hollywood, where they installed their "Wooly WALLart," above. Hats, scarves, gloves and neck warmers were left so that residents of the transitional housing facility, which has nearly 100 beds, could pick out clothing for themselves.

Knitriots wooly wall contructionKnitRiot began knitting the pieces in the summer, assembled the installation on Friday night, right, and moved it to PATH early Saturday, above.

"We like to mix craft and art with a message or a service," said one member of the collective, who declined to provide a name. ("Yarn bombing," the placement of knitted graffiti in public spaces, is technically illegal, though would anyone declare making clothes for the homeless a crime?) "We knew we wanted to bomb a homeless shelter. We chose a facility that served the community with the greatest need. PATH serves people who come in off the street." 

The PATH installation follows the group's "ArtisTREE" in Highland Park, where masked members draped an elementary school tree in colorful woolen bills to protest school budget cuts.

Contacted on Monday, a representative at PATH said the organization knew nothing of the installation. That didn't upset the knitters. "We put it up at 7 a.m.," one KnitRiot member said, "and by 9 a.m. people were walking around wearing the handmade items."


The art of the yarn bomb 

International yarn bomb day

Made by the homeless and formerly homes

-- Lisa Boone

Photo credits: KnitRiot


Good design as a good deed, on Skid Row and beyond

Architects and designers can -- and do -- talk about the effects their work can have on homeless people who move into homes they build. But at a panel discussion on the topic, it was Paul Mitchell talking about the meaning of seeing birds outside his own window who moved the crowd.

Blu Dot, the Minneapolis-based home design company with a store on Melrose Avenue in L.A., sponsored the panel discussion along with Skid Row Housing Trust, which develops and manages apartment buildings that provide permanent housing for the formerly homeless.

Mitchell, who said he was homeless for the better part of 20 years, has lived in the Olympia Hotel for about a year, in a third-floor apartment with a tree out his window.

“I have birds that come in. It created a home for me,” he said at the event Thursday. A group of sparrows that worked early, chatted, flew away and came back to sleep each night became “like my mentors. They’re hard-working, peaceful neighbors.”

Once the tree was trimmed, the sparrows left, but some hummingbirds moved in, and Mitchell put out a feeder. “This one little hummingbird, such a small thing, makes a difference in my life,” he said after the panel discussion.

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Soy candles, soaps and more, made by Made

Made store in downtown L.A.
For those who haven’t yet ventured to the skid row gift shop and cafe called Made, there’s a chance to discover its appealing and inexpensive items on the Westside — at Bloomingdale’s in Century City and in the holiday shop at the Skirball Cultural Center. Made carries products made by homeless and formerly homeless women in Los Angeles in support of the Downtown Women's Center. Opened in May, the store carries hostess and holiday gifts such as sweet cloth travel bags, beautiful soaps, soy candles in one-of-a-kind containers, frames and cards. Using a Japanese book-binding method, women take apart old hardcover books and make new blank journals. One journal ($16) was made from the perfectly suited “Open Secrets” by Alice Munro.

Products from Made will be part of the Skirball’s holiday pop-up shop, which opened on Thursday to go with its exhibition called “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.” The pop-up will have work from 79 women’s cooperatives and artisans from all over the world, said Pam Balton, manager of the museum’s store, called Audrey’s Museum Store.

Bloomingdale’s also is set to carry some of Made’s items, including handmade felt holiday ornaments and succulent arrangements, starting in early November, said Kathy Suto, vice president and general manager of the store and a board member of the Downtown Women’s Center.

Made store downtown Suto said that she is a “huge customer” of the skid row shop, pictured above and at right, and that she realized Bloomingdale’s customers would be happy to support a local effort.

The Made store and cafe downtown are a social enterprise, meaning the profit gets plowed back into the Downtown Women’s Center, housed in a renovated Gothic Revival building at San Pedro and 5th streets. The center is home to 71 women, and an additional 200 women a day come for classes, meals and health services. It also offers job training and other services.


Two worlds, one rooftop garden

Volunteering at the Dish Depot

Skid row apartments: investing on the inside

-- Mary MacVean

Photos: Holt Photography

A roof full of vegetables at the Cobb apartments on skid row

Cobb Givens
The Charles Cobb Apartments had a roof open for gardening in the middle of skid row. The Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council had some loft dwellers pining for space to grow things.

All it took was a lunch to bring them together.

And just months later, the gardeners and their supporters celebrated their first season on a scorcher of an afternoon Wednesday on the roof of the Charles Cobb Apartments, drinking lemonade and marveling at the sunflowers, watermelon vines, bushes of basil and other plants.

Cobb marigolds"I had no idea it would look like it does now. You look now, and wow. We have really come a long way," said Edward Givens, a Cobb resident who with Raymond Lyons came up to the roof every day to water and weed and nurture the plants. (Those are marigolds at right, planted in hopes of providing natural pest control.)

At the party Wednesday, they were just about the only people smart enough to wear hats against the sun. But of course, few other people know the roof as well as they know it.

"You’re right in the middle of the city and you come up here -- it’s like a different world. It’s like an oasis in the sky," said Givens, pictured at the top of the post looking at collard greens with Alexandra Paxton, project manager for the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles.

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Free shopping at Dish Depot for formerly homeless people


The Dish Depot is one of those win-wins: Lovers of Heath Ceramics dishes get the objects of their desire, and people who have moved from the streets into homes can shop at a free store.

The Skid Row Housing Trust will set up the Dish Depot on Saturday and open the store on Sept. 16, 23 and 30 to the residents of its 1,500 apartments, said Molly Rysman, the trust's director of external affairs. The stock for the Dish Depot comes from Heath shoppers who brought in their old dishes in exchange for a 25% discount on new Heath dishes during the summer, Rysman said.

Volunteers are needed to set up or staff the store on all three days of the Dish Depot, downtown on 6th Street near Maple Avenue.

Depot3It's the second year that Heath ran its Home Plate  campaign, which came about when store workers heard people say they'd love to buy new dishes but didn't want to throw their old ones away.

Last year, the Dish Depot had 4,000 pieces, Rysman said. Residents of Skid Row Housing Trust apartments can choose up to eight pieces, the limit set to make sure everyone gets a good selection.

"It just really makes a difference in terms of community integration to have a matching set of dishes," she said. The trust's residents "feel more comfortable inviting someone to dinner."

Skid Row Housing Trust develops and runs housing for homeless people in Los Angeles, and it provides services such as health care and job search assistance.

Anyone who wants to volunteer for the Dish Depot should contact the trust to schedule a time -- as little as an hour. People can register by calling (213) 683-0522, Ext. 139, or by going to the Skid Row volunteer page.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: The 2010 Dish Depot. Credit: P. Strait / Skid Row Housing Trust


Investing on the inside, too

Working together

Volunteers needed to count homeless in L.A. County


L.A. County is looking for thousands of volunteers to help count homeless people on the streets and in shelters and other institutions.

Los Angeles is considered to have the highest street homeless population in the country, with as many as 50,000 people on any given night, according to the county Homeless Services Authority. A more accurate accounting helps officials figure out how to apportion resources and how factors such as the difficult economy affect the population.

The count, which is mandated every two years by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, takes place Jan. 25 to Jan. 27 in Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, east L. A. County, the South Bay and the Antelope Valley.

Volunteers -- 4,000 are needed -- are trained before they are deployed, said Calvin Fortenberry, communications director for the homeless authority. The website provides information about exactly what volunteers can do to help and how to sign up.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Outside the Charles Cobb Apartments on San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times.


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