This month, nine Peace & Healing Centers are expected to open and begin offering services to working-class residents living across the various communities in Los Angeles. The centers, launched by the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department (LA Civil Rights), are part of the city’s first participatory budgeting pilot program called Los Angeles Reforms for Equity and Public Acknowledgement of Institutional Racism (LA REPAIR).
Under the plan proposed in former Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2021-22 budget, the selected zones would receive a combined $8.5 million to develop projects like the Peace & Healing Centers.
The Peace & Healing Centers are part of a $2 million pilot program that aims to work with community-based organizations in order to create physical spaces and public programming centered on environmental, social and economic healing.
The centers are located in REPAIR Zones, which stand for Reforms for Equity and Public Acknowledgement of Institutional Racism and would ultimately serve the communities most in need, who have struggled with the impacts of pollution, systemic racism, poverty and hate crimes/incidents.
About 87% of people living in these zones are people of color, according to LA Civil Rights. “These are the communities that were put on the wrong side of redlining in the 1930s, these are the communities that were denied investment in the 20th century,” said Capri Maddox, executive director of LA Civil Rights and board trustee for Southern California Public Radio. “We cannot pretend that Los Angeles was created equally, and we cannot heal this city without an intentional and focused approach to supporting those that have been wronged for so long.”
The center will operate in nine REPAIR Zones, including Arleta, Mission, Westlake, West Adams, Skid Row, Boyle Heights, South LA, Southeast LA and Wilmington. Some of these neighborhoods are also regions with the highest numbers of hate crimes and hate incidents reported.
Reported hate crimes in LA County grew 23%, from 641 in 2020 to 786 in 2021, the highest number recorded since 2002. The LA County Hate Crime Report released last year by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations reported that the largest number of hate crimes (251) reported in 2021 took place in what is referred to as the Metro Service Planning Area (SPA) Region IV, which stretches from West Hollywood to Boyle Heights and includes places like Skid Row and Westlake.
In terms of hate crime assistance, Maddox said the Peace & Healing Centers will offer mental health support and a space for healing for victims that have been through a traumatic incident like a hate crime. “We know there’s a lot of trauma in our communities, especially right now with hate crimes on the rise, and we see police brutality nationwide that is impacting the psyche of Angelinos,” she said. “There are so many folks in these communities that have been wronged for so long, and they need a safe space to heal. And this is what the Peace and Healing centers will do.”
The physical locations hosting the Peace & Healing Centers are Para Los Niños in the South LA REPAIR Zone, Volunteers of America Los Angeles in Southeast LA, Bryant Temple AME Community Development Corporation in the West Adams region, Central City Neighborhood Partners (CCNP) in Westlake, YMCA LA in Wilmington and Harbor Gateway, Proyecto Pastoral in the Boyle Heights, Creating Justice LA in the Skid Row and El Nido Family Centers in Arleta and Mission Hills.
Each Peace & Healing Center location is required to offer at least 20 hours a week of open-door healing programming, but it can be tailored to meet their community’s unique needs. Examples of possible programming include meditation circles, art spaces, youth, street vendor permitting, know-your-rights training, community gardening and women’s mental health groups.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AND HATE CRIME VICTIMS
Margarita Alvarez, director of Central City Neighborhood Partners (CCNP), said she is excited for the services to be taken advantage of at the center that has been opened since 2001.
She’s particularly eager to offer mental health services to her community, which the majority is made up of Latinos. “A lot of the time, Latinos do not think about our mental health. There’s a stigma when reaching out for mental health services because we don’t want people to call us crazy, but we want to be a place where people feel comfortable to reach out for help, especially for our older community members,” Alvarez told CALÓ NEWS. “We will also have a garden for people that want to work with the land. Providing food is also important because many of the mental health issues that people have often are tied to food insecurity and not knowing what you will be feeding yourself or your family.”
Alvarez also mentioned that hate crime victims will always be welcomed in centers like the one she directs. Although the center has not had a lot of experience dealing with hate crimes or victims, she wants to cater to the well-being of her community, willing to support in every way they can.
“A lot of the time, if you experience hate outside your home, you can easily transmit it to other things. People might go home and have a fight with their family member, their kids, or partners, and it’s not really about them, it’s about a [hate crime] that they might have experienced out in the streets,” Alvarez said. “We will have community circles where people can talk about those things and let all of that out of their system in a safe space and supportive space, and we will also be working with mental health providers and can lead those conversations. Once we begin those conversations, I think we will begin to heal.”
Alvarez’s biggest hope is that the Peace and Healing Centers serve as a safe sanctuary and safe haven for her community, especially for young adults and teenagers.
A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
For Kimberly Gomez, 28, centers like these were once her second home. “When I was six years old, my family and I had to move houses because it was not safe, there were a lot of gangs. We moved down the street in Downtown LA and that is how I began coming to CCNP,” she said.
Gomez said that her parents took advantage of the services provided and signed her and her siblings up for everything possible, like yoga classes and martial arts classes. “When I went to college I was not coming as much, but during summer or winter breaks I would return and volunteer at events they would have here,” she said.
Gomez said that centers like these have also made her feel part of the LA community and helped her not feel excluded. “You feel represented and places like these make you feel part of something,” she said.
She is happy to know that a center like CCNP will be someone else’s second home thanks to the Peace and Healing Centers program. “You need to have a place to heal because sometimes you know what you need to work internally, in terms of mental health, but you also need a physical space in the community where you can do that work.”
Abigail R. Marquez, General Manager of the City of Los Angeles, Community Investment for the Families Department, said many communities of color are still recovering from issues like the COVID-19 pandemic. Investing in programs like the Peace and Healing Centers will help expedite the process of healing.
“While we cannot undo the systemic racism that has deeply hurt our communities, especially communities of color, we can address them through intentional work,” Marquez said. “We believe the impact of this program will create environmental, economic, and social growth.”
Peace & Healing Centers will also provide at least two monthly events for the community and can be utilized to facilitate critical, community-led dialogues. By the end of the nine-month pilot phase, each Peace and Healing Center will have hosted 1,400 hours of free services and programming for their REPAIR zone.
Click HERE for a map of the Peace and Healing Centers. Contact the LA Civil Rights Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or (213) 978-1845.
LA residents can now report hate crimes and hate incidents by calling 3-1-1, visiting myla311.lacity.org or using the MyLA311 app on their Apple or Android devices.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing CALÓ NEWS series on the state of hate in LA and California. If you are an expert on the subject, a victim, an activist or community leader, please contact us at email@example.com. To follow the series, click here.
Anyone may report anonymously and receive access to additional community-based and crisis care resources. In addition, information about hate crime incidents or crimes may be submitted anonymously online or by calling 211. Visit the LA Civil, Human Rights, and Equity Department’s resource page HERE for additional state and legal resources.