Saturday, September 03, 2005

Refugee Center Closed With Two Hours Notice - In Los Angeles!,1,2136703,print.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

Four surprising revelations in the below story.

First, that LA County would close such a vital community resource with just two hours notice - without finding a place where all these resources could have been kept together in the area. It would seem to me that there should be enough vacant office space in the Vermont Corridor (particularly further to the south as they are/were in Koreatown at 532 S. Vermont) to temporarily house the programs until a new permanent facility is built or the old one fixed. And with the new Rapid bus on Vermont, it is now quite easy to transverse the length of the street.

Failing that, Downtown certainly has enough vacant space that could be temporarily used.

Second, why should a building built in the 1950's become so unsafe that everyone would have to leave in two hours.

Third that there were 150,000 African refugees (and a total of 350,000 African immigrants in total) in Los Angeles County. Now I am familiar with Little Ethiopia on South Fairfax and I know many Africans who have come here as students and stayed - but I have read nothing about so many refugees being settled in Los Angeles. Only in a city this size could so many people invisibly integrate into the community with little or no public notice.

Four, why has the LA Times not talked about these refuges more before this and why has it taken almost a month for this closure to a make it to the pages of Los Angeles Times?

Ann M. Simmons
Times Staff Writer

September 3, 2005

Leaders of Los Angeles' burgeoning African immigrant community are up in arms over the recent closure of a local community center that for years had provided social services to thousands of African refugees and other newcomers.

The African Community Resource Center, a nonprofit organization on Vermont Avenue, was shut down Aug. 10 after county officials deemed the building unsafe because of structural damage.

"This is disastrous for us," said Nikki Tesfai, director of the center she founded in 1984 to help serve many of the estimated 150,000 or more African refugees living in Los Angeles County. "We are not talking about just a work office. We are talking about services. Everything is stranded right now."

Tesfai said she was attending a meeting when staff members called her to say they had been ordered to evacuate the building in two hours. "My staff was so panicked," Tesfai said. "They didn't know what to take."

I just hope the Times follows up to find out exactly how this building became so unsafe, and is it County owned or just leased from a landlord? If it is privately owned, they have a responsibility to fix the problems and honor the lease. If it is County or non-profit owned, has any effort made to get local contractors to donate what is needed to fix the place to get it re-opened? Or would another location be more central to the community it serves??

More information! Do not allow this to be a one time story.

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