Crisis Shelter Cancels Move to Paramount

Times Staff Writer

After several months of attempting to get City Council approval for a shelter that provides temporary housing to battered women and children, Su Casa Family Crisis and Support Center unexpectedly withdrew its request Tuesday.

Christine Hach, executive director of Su Casa, said the decision to withdraw the request to move from Hawaiian Gardens to Paramount was made because of the controversy the proposed move has caused.

"We recognize that this is an emotional issue and that acceptance only comes with understanding," Hach told the City Council.

A move is necessary because Su Casa's present home is too small, Hach said. The agency also recently applied to the state for a $75,000 grant, which has been approved but will be granted only if the group leases or buys a larger shelter, Hach said.

Although the agency was no longer seeking to move to Paramount, the council voted on a proposed ordinance that would have permitted the shelter in the city.

It deadlocked on a 2-2 vote with Councilman Case Boogaard, who is on the board of directors of Su Casa, and Councilman John Mies voting approval and Mayor Charles Weldon and Councilwoman Esther Caldwell voting against the measure. Councilman Jerry Mulrooney was absent. Because there was a tie vote, the ordinance did not pass.

"This is a sad day when a home like this isn't allowed in our neighborhood," Boogaard said.

The city's municipal code does not permit group homes or halfway houses, and the city staff had recommended that the proposed measure be drawn up to specifically allow temporary homes for battered or abused women and children in certain residential areas.

City Atty. Maurice O'Shea said the proposed ordinance "is limited in scope but the issue is very broad." He said the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that "group homes can be regulated" but not prohibited from moving into an area.

Weldon referred the proposed ordinance to the Planning Commission for further study. The other members did not object. He promised Hach that he would get back to her within three weeks with a response from the Planning Commission.

Hach said in an interview that the agency would continue to look outside Paramount for a home because of overcrowded conditions at the present location.

Su Casa provides temporary shelter to battered women and children. The average family stay is about 30 days, Hach said. The organization provides counseling, shelter and food to the women and their children without cost. Su Casa, a nonprofit organization, is supported through state and county funds and donations and has an annual budget of more than $200,000, Hach said.

The present home has about 12 beds for four to five families and the group was seeking a home that would provide space for about 20 beds, Hach said.

The group does not publicly reveal the location of its center and women seeking help are asked to call a hot line to receive help.

The Hawaiian Gardens address, which the group moved to in 1976, is not publicly known and the address of the Paramount home that the group was seeking to move into was never made public.

"There was no problem when Su Casa moved to Hawaiian Gardens. We simply moved in. The mayor of the city is on our board of directors," Hach said.

The majority of the neighbors in Hawaiian Gardens probably are not aware that Su Casa is a crisis center, said Susan Kandler, chairman of the agency's board of directors.

The Paramount location is a duplex with six bedrooms and six baths, Hach said. She said when the group found the house, it went to the Paramount City Council in December and asked to move in "because we wanted to do the right thing."

Community fears built up over the months, Hach said, that the home would cause other groups, such as alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers, to move to the city.

At one point, Hach said, the group sent letters requesting a community meeting with the neighbors in the vicinity of the Paramount duplex. The Feb. 15 meeting with neighbors, Hach said, was sparsely attended, with only one couple complaining that the home might create problems.

"The couple was afraid the kids might play on their lawn or that there would be a parking problem," she said. "We tried to assure them and the entire community that we try and create a very quiet atmosphere. There is no violence. These are the victims of violence."

"Our home looks like any other home on the block," Hach said.

In interviews with The Times before the Tuesday meeting, several council members said the issue had become political and emotional.

"This is a real problem; while it might be a good thing, it might open doors for other halfway houses for drugs addicts and people just out of prison," Mulrooney said. "Su Casa is a good concept but this has created a lot of emotions."

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