A project conceived in 1991 found completion on Monday morning, September 10, when the new OPCC Annenberg Access Center for homeless services opened for business at 503 Olympic Boulevard. So said City Councilmember Kevin McKeown at grand opening festivities for the 8,100 sq. ft. building the preceding Thursday evening, September 6, an event attended by City officials, donors and OPCC staff and volunteers.
The conception that McKeown referred to was community discussion on the Public Electronic Network (PEN) that first gave birth on the site in 1993 as Shwashlock, a facility that used temporary structures to provide showers, washers/dryers and lockers for homeless people in Santa Monica. The operation of that facility was taken over in September 2005 by OPCC, a nonprofit organization that had been in operation since 1963 when, as Ocean Park Community Center, it opened a “port of entry” Drop-In Center at 3rd and Hill streets for homeless individuals and families seeking services.
The facility that opened this week combines the services previously offered by Shwashlock and the “port of entry” services of the Access Center that has been operating for 22 years at 7th Street and Colorado Avenue in the back corner of the Big Blue Bus property. And the new, very permanent building – designed by Ralph Mechur, AIA, of Santa Monica, appointed last month to the SMMUSD Board – will give the Annenberg Access Center twice the space that the two programs had and will allow for expansion of those services in both quantity and quality.
For example, OPCC has long had a working relationship with the Venice Family Clinic whereby doctors and nurse practitioners visited the Access Center twice weekly, taking over the use of a small office for part of the day. The new building has two medical examination rooms, and on-site health care services through the Venice Clinic will be expanded to five days per week.
Additionally, OPCC’s “port of entry” services have included referrals to the State EDD’s “One Stop” centers for persons seeking employment (the closest of those centers is on Mindanao Way in Marina del Rey). In the new Annenberg Access Center, an office is provided rent-free to the One Stop center, and it will staff that office with employment counselors without charge.
These are but two examples of the benefits that the new building will provide for the many programs offered, which include clothing, showers, restrooms, lockers, washers and dryers, sack lunches and holiday meals, mail and message services, bus tokens, case management, 12-step meetings, employment assistance, money management, medical and mental health services, advocacy and assistance in applying for government benefits, referrals to emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
The Annenberg Access Center will also house the homeless meals programs that moved indoors from the parks last year.
This is the second new facility opened by OPCC in 2007 as part of its $19.5 million capital campaign – “From Homelessness to Hope” – which will conclude this December. While the Cloverfield Services Center opened in January was built by OPCC on a long-term ground lease from the City, the Annenberg Access Center was built by the City and will be leased by OPCC at $5,600 per month.
The Santa Monica-based George Hoag Family Foundation has provided $1 million towards the capital campaign, and six separate grants of $500,000 have been provided by The Ahmanson Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, the Richard F. Dwyer-Eleanor W. Dwyer Fund, the W.M. Keck Foundation, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and the Weingart Foundation.
“OPCC is pleased to be able to provide life-changing services to those who are homeless in our community,” said John Maceri, its Executive Director. “We especially thank the City of Santa Monica for partnering with us to build this new facility, where many people will take steps to end their homelessness.”