Construction is well-underway on the new Mental Health America of Los Angeles (MHALA) facility, which is set to bring mental and physical health care services, as well as employment support and opportunity, housing support and more to Midtown.
“Our agency really believes in providing integrated, comprehensive services . . . for people on the street,” MHALA President and CEO Christina Miller said. “We provide life skills and wellness programs. We help people get benefits and help them get into education.”
Once the new 26,000-square-foot, two-story facility is complete at 1955 Long Beach Blvd., MHALA will transition out of its current space, the Village, at 456 Elm Ave., which consists of about 27,000 square feet on four floors. MHALA will occupy and operate about 20,000 square feet of space, including a 2,000 square foot community center that will be open to the public after hours Monday through Friday for events and meetings.
The remaining 6,000 square feet will be occupied by The Children’s Clinic and coffee cafe Third Wave Market. The Children’s Clinic will occupy 3,000 square feet of space on the ground floor and provide health care services for MHALA members. Third Wave will occupy 3,000 square feet directly above The Children’s Clinic, offering fresh direct-trade coffee, juices, smoothies and a seasonally changing menu with organic and healthy foods, such as sandwiches and salads.
“Part of what we do is help [members] learn soft skills so they can move into a job [within the community] and be self-sufficient in that way,” Miller said. “So we’re expanding that. Our employment training is one of our flagship efforts. Long Beach is a great place to do that because there’s so much support.”
Twenty percent of Third Wave staff at this location will be MHALA members. This innovative aspect of the partnership will give MHALA members job and work experience, as well as teach them skills they can use as a stepping stone to other job opportunities, Miller noted.
MHALA will offer the same integrated service it has always prided itself on at the new location, Miller explained. The space will feature a shower area where members can wash and groom themselves, computers to search and apply for jobs, and staff to assist in case management, teach life skills and finding members the assistance they need, whether it’s through MHALA or other organizations.
“We want to find out what that person wants and what they’re open to. They may be entitled to disability benefits. They may want to go back to school. Maybe they stepped out of the workforce, so they have skills,” Miller said. “We want to find out what their goals are and what they want to do with their lives. We also immediately start trying to get them connected to housing. It’s hard to help people improve their lives when they’re living on the streets.”
The project site had been empty since 2011 when a warehouse tenant vacated the premises, at which point MHALA took over the space and began the design and planning process, MHALA Vice President of Real Estate Rick Janes explained. Many changes have occurred throughout the design and planning process, he noted, which has delayed project completion considerably. However, it is now about 85% completed, with Third Wave expected to begin operating in November. The goal is for MHALA and The Children’s Clinic to be moved into the building and operating by January 1, Miller added.
“We really take being a good neighbor seriously. People are afraid to have someone who’s homeless or someone with a mental health challenge in their neighborhood. They don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re worried about their neighborhood getting damaged,” Miller said. “But we’re here to help those people and to help the community as a whole. We want to work in partnership with the community. If we help the people who are the most vulnerable, the whole community thrives.”