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Monday, Feb 6, 2023

Hope for the Unhoused

Ken Craft is in the business of hope.

The founder and chief executive of Hope the Mission, formerly called Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, leads one of the San Fernando Valley’s most active efforts in combating homelessness. His basic philosophy is to get such folks out of the anxiety of living without a home and back into a place where they can recalibrate, can rebuild — can hope — again.

“We know that people need a second chance and we’re in the business of giving people second chances and third chances,” Craft said. “Oftentimes, it’s just so hard to rebuild your life when you’re scrambling every day. When we can move people out of survival mode and into possibility mode, everything changes. It’s revolutionary. It’s transformative. That’s what we’re in the business of doing.”

Soon, Craft’s portfolio will include The Woodlands, a family housing center in the former 818 Hotel in Woodland Hills. With 100 units that include four beds each, it will be able to house as many as 400 people when it opens at the end of March.

“We’re really excited about that. Each unit will house a family,” Craft said. “Most of our occupants will be single moms with kids, but the requirements to stay there will be that you’re a family. You’ll have to have one child under 18.”

The state Department of Housing and Community Development and Los Angeles County have put up most of the funding for The Woodlands, with Hope the Mission about halfway through its bridge fundraising of around $2 million. After that, the nonprofit plans to convert the shuttered Denny’s on the property to a joint preschool and community room for residents — one that will offer recreational space and opportunities for different classes.

“It’s just one of those things where the more that I thought about it, I wondered what was the highest and best use for that building,” Craft said.

Other recent projects by Hope the Mission, which are shown in this section, include the Trebek Center in Northridge, which houses 107 residents in a communal living setting at a former roller rink, and a Tiny Home Village in Reseda, which has 52 units, each with two beds. Both are at capacity and offer a plethora of services, including mental health counseling. In total, the nonprofit boasts around 1,400 beds and will have 724 additional beds in the next four months — with The Woodlands representing a large chunk of that. (The Trebek center was named for Alex Trebek, the longtime “Jeopardy” game show host who was a major donor to Hope the Mission.)

Craft walks the walk. During this interview, he had just begun living in his car for a week, to put himself in the shoes of homeless people who take to cars and other vehicles for shelter and sleep. He’d previously spent 100 hours living on the street. He once held a fundraiser by running from Death Valley to one of his facilities, and next month he will do the same when he runs the 350 miles from a Las Vegas casino to The Woodlands.

“We’ve not had a FEMA-like response (to the homelessness crisis) and that’s what we need. We need to go all-in for housing,” Craft said, evoking the poker-themed name for this fundraiser run.

Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk is a managing editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. She previously covered real estate for the Los Angeles Business Journal. She has done work with publications including The Orange County Register, The Real Deal and doityourself.com.

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