California, particularly in Los Angeles and San Francisco, has long grappled with a housing crisis that has left millions struggling to find affordable and stable homes. In June, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report that indicated that the homeless population has increased. Among those affected, the Latino community bears a significant burden, with almost half of Los Angeles’ population being Hispanic or Latino. According to an article in the LA Times, Latinos saw a 26% increase in the county’s population.
“We have a crisis on our streets, and it’s getting worse”said Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, Chief Executive Officer of the LAHSA, in the article.
However, amid these challenging circumstances, hope emerges in the form of Holos Communities, a non-profit organization with a mission to end homelessness, combat global warming, and reverse racial inequity through holistic housing solutions.
On Thursday, July 20th, the Holos Community celebrated the grand opening of one of their projects named ‘Avenida,’ which is their first Project Homekey site to be completed.
Project Homekey was first created during the Covid-19 pandemic in an attempt to keep people housed during difficult and unprecedented times. By repurposing underutilized hotels into affordable homes, the initiative sought to provide a stable living environment for those struggling to afford basic necessities.
Located in Koreatown, near the Vermont exit off the 101 freeway in Los Angeles, Holos helped repurpose the former Avenida Hotel, creating a total of 75 small studio apartments for the unhoused. The completion of Project Avenida was nothing short of remarkable, as it achieved its goal in nearly one-third of the time and at two-thirds of the typical cost for such developments.
“For us, this is lightspeed; being able to do something in this short of a time span is a miracle,” stated Cristian Ahumada, Executive Director and CEO of Holos Communities. The project was acquired in 2022, construction began shortly after, and it was finally completed in 2023.
The process of filling these housing developments is preset on a system referred to as the Coordinated Entry System. According to Ahumada, it is largely dependent on where the development is situated; it then prioritizes people based on their circumstances and what is most convenient for them. “We are more than happy to have them. That’s our job. And that’s what we hope to be able to contribute and provide a benefit to the community,” stated Ahumada.
Ahumada said that Project Avenida’s location largely benefits its tenants. “It’s also next to a Metro stop, which is huge,” stated Ahumada. This accessibility to public transportation allows residents without private vehicles to expand their opportunities, allowing for overall economic growth and social empowerment.
Among many things, Holos Communities is dedicated to fostering economic mobility for its tenants beyond just affordable housing. For them, it’s not just about building houses; it’s about building communities that foster equity and opportunity.
The Latino community faces a disproportionate impact from the housing crisis, becoming one of the fastest-growing populations experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. According to LAHSA’s report, the homeless population has increased by 9% on any given night, and this crisis is even more pronounced among the Hispanic Latino community.
“In light of this, Project Avenida’s completion holds immense promise for the Latino community’s economic and social well-being,” said Ahumada. “Providing housing for Latino unhoused individuals is huge, particularly in LA,”
With the success and completion of Project Avenida, Holos Communities has its sights set on a brighter future for both the organization and the Latino community. Their mission remains the same: to combat homelessness, and address and increase awareness of climate change, and racial equity.
“The world that we live in today, we refer to that as 1.0. Right? Because while housing and homelessness are issues, we also have to solve the planet,” Ahumada said. “Our 2.0 model really embraces the rebranding of Holos to find that intersectionality of addressing housing issues, climate change, and racial equity.”
The organization began nearly a decade ago when Ahumada was motivated by his personal experiences during his childhood in Chile, where he witnessed extreme poverty. Ahumada believed that with his skills in architecture and his dedication to social change, he could make a difference in the housing crisis. Now, their organization is 68% BIPOC, and they all have the same dedication to changing the world in mind.
Holos encourages local communities to get involved in the decision-making process behind these projects. They seek to build consensus and raise awareness about the urgent need to address the housing crisis in Los Angeles. “If I were to wish for anything, it would be for the understanding of Angelenos that housing has to go somewhere,” stated Ahumada.
Project Avenida is a prime example of its overall goal and mission. It serves as a beacon of hope for thousands in need of affordable and stable housing in Los Angeles. Like Avenida, there will be other housing developments with the same goals in mind; they will offer the same opportunities, all at a sustainable cost.
Holos Communities’ dedication to providing sustainable and affordable housing for those less fortunate paves the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future, especially for the BIPOC community. They will continue to reshape the landscape of housing in California, one housing development at a time.
“We hope to take big bites out of the housing and the homeless crisis,” stated Ahumada. He envisions a future where all individuals, regardless of their background, have access to safe, stable, and dignified homes.