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New Emergency Shelter Gives Homeless Families a Second Chance

The Culver City facility aims to help people obtain housing and jobs in just 90 days.

Who needs a Plan B?

That's what former Los Angeles Unified School District employee Jaele Davis, 49, thought last fall when she made the move from Texas back to Los Angeles, a place she had once considered home.

Davis had been approved for reinstatement at L.A. Unified for October, so she and her 10-year-old son moved in time for the start of his school in September. It seemed like an ideal situation.

Little did the single mother know that within months, she and her son would be homeless.

Due to a hiring freeze, Davis was not able to land a job. After months of motel-hopping, she reached a desperate end when she realized they would have to live out of her car.

 "It was devastating," Davis said. "I only had money left to pay for two more days of motels. Call it pride, but I couldn't tell my friends or family."

In tears, Davis phoned her pastor, who referred her to Upward Bound House's Family Shelter facility in Culver City. Family Shelter immediately provided Davis with a voucher for another motel, where she and her son stayed for three months until space opened up in Family Shelter at the end of July.

[My son] "cried the first night in the motel," Davis recalled. "Now that we're at Family Shelter, he doesn't want to leave."

Davis and her son are one of 72 families per year who benefit from Family Shelter's emergency program, which offers 90 days of housing and counseling. It is one of only two homeless facilities in the city.

"It's a very positive asset to the community," Mayor Christopher Armenta said of Family Shelter. "The only other official homeless facility is a cold-weather shelter."

Although Upward Bound House has been in Santa Monica since 1990, the nonprofit expanded and purchased the rundown 18-unit Sun Bay Motel in Culver City in April.

Councilman Jeffrey Cooper joked, at a recent City Council meeting, that Sun Bay used to rent rooms "by the minute." Now, the motel has been transformed by volunteer professional interior designers, and provides a refuge for many looking for a second chance. 

"It's a place to exhale in a safe environment, but it's also a place to get back on your feet," Upward Bound House Executive Director David Snow said of Family Shelter.

In addition to intensive case management, families are provided breakfast and dinner daily, thanks to Google, Whole Foods, Culver City residents and other donors. And with the help of her "angel" Tina Hill, Davis was deemed eligible for rental assistance and will soon be completing the job application process for an HR position.

In Santa Monica, Family Place and the Senior Villa offer similar services for homeless families and seniors. And despite the recent expansion, Snow is always looking to help more families: "Upward Bound House would love to expand similar services since there is still a tremendous need."

Back in Culver City, and with her eyes on the future, Davis is hoping to help other families with her story. "God will give me beauty for ashes," she said. "I hope I can inspire others not to give up through the storm."

Wednesday night, CBS is hosting a back-to-school event at the Family Shelter in Culver City for children living at Upward Bound House. Kids will receive backpacks stuffed with school supplies. On Thursday, check the site for our exclusive audio slideshow of the event. 

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