LOS ANGELES, Calif.–A Los Angeles County supervisor argued that funding for housing the homeless in downtown’s Skid Row area was bad policy, especially for women.

Though Supervisor Gloria Molina ultimately voted with her colleagues to allocate $10.3 million to seven developments to create affordable housing or supportive, permanent residences for the homeless or mentally ill, she said she was disappointed that some of the money was going to a neighborhood where the concentration of homeless people makes it unsafe for women.

“Adding more permanent housing in Skid Row is a mistake, especially for women,” Molina said.

For the past 20 years, Molina said she had been arguing for a plan to develop more supportive housing in other areas. The supervisor asked Housing Authority staffers for a report on efforts elsewhere, including the San Gabriel Valley, where she said she was disappointed with the lack of progress.

The projects to be funded include 165 units to be rehabilitated in the Skid Row area, 48 of which will be at the Downtown Women’s Center’s original location at 333 S. Los Angeles St., opened more than 30 years ago. The nonprofit has 71 units at its new headquarters at 442 S. San Pedro St., where meals are served and homeless women can get medical attention.

Molina argued that women did not like living in the downtown center, but representatives of the Housing Authority and the nonprofit said the residential center had 165 applicants on a waiting list for permanent housing.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky agreed with the idea of housing the homeless elsewhere and said he was optimistic about longer-term prospects to do so. But he said he couldn’t deny funding to Skid Row.

“It’s a far sight better than the condition they find themselves in now,” Yaroslavsky said of women living on the streets.

A 2010 study by the Downtown Women’s Center found that homeless women in the Skid Row area stay homeless longer, with 40 percent saying they slept in emergency shelters, on the streets or in abandoned buildings or vehicles for five years or more. Nearly half are 51 or older, according to the nonprofit.

“There is no doubt that the work that you do will create safe shelter for many women,” Molina said, addressing representatives of the Downtown Women’s Center. But she asked that the group stop housing people in the Skid Row area.

“We think we’re providing solutions, (but) we’re also adding to the problem,” she said.

The board voted 5-0 to fund the seven projects. The Downtown Women’s Center will receive $1.4 million.

By Elizabeth Marcellino | City News Service