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Burbank Housing Corp. breathes new life into shuttered activity centers

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The Burbank Housing Corp. updated the Burbank City Council on new programs it’s providing at its once-shuttered activity centers.
(File Photo)

Although low attendance numbers and rising costs led the Burbank Housing Corp. to close its after-school activity centers last fall, community engagement and partnerships have led to the revival of those facilities.

Chris Welker, president of the nonprofit’s board of directors, updated the Burbank City Council on Tuesday about the organization’s progress on current and upcoming services board members think are better tailored for their tenants.

The Burbank Housing Corp., or BHC, manages more than 300 low-income housing units in Burbank and established activity centers in certain neighborhoods to provide a safe haven for children served by the organization.

All four of BHC’s facilities — the Elmwood, Verdugo, Catalina and Peyton-Grismer activity centers — are being used in some capacity, thanks to several partnerships formed by the nonprofit since this past fall.

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However, in addition to increasing costs and declining enrollment at the activity centers, BHC officials learned that after-school programs were being provided to students who did not live in one of the low-income properties owned by BHC.

Many family members said during a City Council meeting this past September that they were upset because there was little to no prior notification about the closings of the centers.

Those residents were concerned about the after-school programs, which they relied upon but were shuttered halfway through the school year.

However, through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley, Welker said a “bridge” after-school program was launched at the Elmwood center this past November and operated until the end of the school year.

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Welker added that the program was free to families who had previously enrolled in BHC’s after-school programs.

In addition to forming a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club in the fall, Welker said BHC officials held four community meetings — one at each center — to learn about the needs of their tenants and the programs and services they would like to see.

Through those conversations, it was clear that after-school and summer programs for the children were important.

Additionally, officials found out their tenants wanted more health-related services, English language classes, employment and financial assistance, as well as other workshops, Welker said.

The newest program for BHC, which started Monday and will run through Aug. 2, is a summer camp hosted at the Elmwood and Peyton-Grismer activity centers and operated by the local Boys & Girls Club.

Welker said families who live in BHC’s low-income properties can enroll their children in the program for $25 a week, which she said is more affordable compared to similar programs in the city.

The summer program allows parents to register their children for as many weeks as they would like.

When school goes back in session, Welker said BHC will continue working with the Boys & Girls Club to provide an after-school program for students.

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The service will be free to the nonprofit’s tenants and would be offered at either the Elmwood center or Peyton-Grismer center or perhaps at both facilities.

While the activity centers were initially created to provide a safe space for children in the BHC community to go to after school, nonprofit officials are looking to utilize the facilities based on the feedback they received from tenants.

Welker said the Catalina center will be more focused on housing and economic stability for its residents.

In March, BHC started a partnership with the Glendale-based nonprofit Communitas, whose mission is to help families get out of poverty.

Welker said Communitas will bring its Lifting People Up program, which works on income stabilization, to the Catalina center.

Additionally, BHC partnered with the nonprofit Family Promise of the Verdugos, which will now have an office at the Catalina Center to provide financial assistance to residents.

Ruth Martinez-Baenen, a BHC board member, told the City Council on Tuesday that the Verdugo activity center will now provide health-related services.

She said the nonprofit will be partnering with Providence Health & Services’ community health department to provide services such as free immunizations, assistance with medical sign-ups, exercise classes for seniors and nutrition classes.

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