Logo horizontal ruler


About Us Contact

OPCC Homeless Access Centers Opens

By Jorge Casuso

September 7 -- Sitting at the front desk of the old OPCC Drop-in Center, Kevin Goins was literally on the front lines -- the first person the homeless would see when they came in for food, or a shower or just a place to hang out.

But with the opening of the new OPCC Annenberg Access Center Thursday, Goins will get some respite from the calls of “'Kevin, Kevin, Kevin,' all afternoon” as he provides one-on-one service from a cubicle in a high-tech office setting.

“It’ll be a lot more intense and focused,” said Goins, who is on the access team that directs the homeless to services that will help get them off the streets. “Sometimes people just want to have a safe refuge, which I understand.

“This forces people to have goals,” Goins said. “It’s not a place to just hang around.”

City Manager Lamont Ewell addresses crowd at opening of new OPCC Annenberg Access Center. (Photo by Frank Gruber)

Larger than the shabby quarters by the bus yards where for years the homeless gathered to take care of basic needs – clean up, grab a bite, pick up mail – the gleaming new building is efficiently divided into spaces that offer everything from a medical check-up to employment counseling.

“These programs are designed to encourage Santa Monica’s homeless population into programs that assist,” City Manager Lamont Ewell told the crowd gathered for the grand opening. “They are designed to offer linkages to other care.

“It’s not intended to ignore the reality that we have people in Santa Monica who are in dire need of support,” said Ewell, responding to critics who charge that the kinds of services offered by the access center lure homeless to the beachside city.

Recommended by a homeless task force in 1991, the new 8,100-square-foot facility at 503 Olympic Boulevard is the point of entry to Santa Monica’s extensive homeless services network.

It is a place where the down-and-out can get everything from a bus token and a sack lunch to a referral that can lead to a job and a permanent roof over their heads.

Most importantly, said OPCC Board Chair Colette Brooks -- who tried living on the city streets for a week to get a first hand glimpse at being homeless – the new center provides the simple things that amount to recovering one’s dignity.

“There was a difference between the way people treated me,” said Brooks. “I was stripped of my dignity.

“To be able to have a place where you can put your things. . . and access services. . . that’s the key,” Brooks said.

The facility and the services it offers are the result of listening to the “unhoused people” who used the City’s old PEN computer network from the public library and “told us what they needed,” said Council member Kevin McKeown.

“The showers just didn’t wash away dirt, they washed away shame,” McKeown told the crowd. “And the keys to the lockers were the keys to dignity.”

The patio and side of the building facility will be used by HOPE and Hand to Hand, to provide the free meals the groups once handed out in the City’s parks, and the exam rooms will be staffed by doctors and nurses from the Venice Family Clinic, said Julie Rusk, who heads the City’s homeless services.

“It was a long time coming,” Rusk said of the new facility. “It took a lot of hard work and creativity.”

Designed by local architect and School Board member Ralph Mechur, the Annenberg Access Center is the second of two facilities built though the $19.5 million OPCC capital campaign, “From Homelessness to Hope,” which will conclude in December.

“I think Santa Monica is a very compassionate place,” said John Maceri, OPCC’s executive director. “It cares about people, and that’s what OPCC is all about.”

Readers Fine Jewelers Advertisement


“This forces people to have goals. It’s not a place to just hang around.”Kevin Goins


“The showers just didn’t wash away dirt, they washed away shame.” Kevin McKeown


“It was a long time coming. It took a lot of hard work and creativity.” Julie Rusk


Lookout Logo footer image
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.
Footer Email icon