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Homeless shelter named for the late Alex Trebek opens in Northridge

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Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Lee celebrated the Trebek Center, a 107-bed interim housing facility, at a ribbon-cutting event Thursday.

The Trebek Center, a newly built interim housing project in Northridge, will welcome its first residents Tuesday after a momentous ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning.

The 107-bed interim housing facility for individuals experiencing homelessness was spearheaded by Hope of the Valley, a non-profit that provides support services for people lacking shelter. The organization and its two leaders have become known for their larger-than-life fundraising efforts, including a 250-mile run to raise money for the Trebek Center and a 100-hour stint on the street for the organization’s CEO Ken Craft and CFO Rowan Vansleeve.

“This site, it’s been a passion project for a long time. I’m so excited to see it come to fruition,” Vansleeve said.

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Hope of the Valley bought what used to be the Skateland roller rink with a huge donation from beloved late Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. The $750,000 fundraising goal was met by a slew of community partners and included funding from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2018 “A Bridge Home” initiative to bring more interim housing to the city.

At first, the price tag at the time seemed insurmountable, Vansleeve said at Thursday’s event. But the Trebek Center is a testament to how a community can work together. The building was a community effort that involved local churches, individual residents, corporations, government officials, and nonprofits.

“Ladies and gentlemen you are in the Trebek Center, a place that the people of Los Angeles build because they believe that there should be hope for people that are living on the street,” Vansleeve said. He added: “You can’t tell me that the people of Los Angeles don’t care about the poor on the streets. You can’t tell me that the people of Los Angels don’t want to end homelessness.”

Vansleeve and Craft spoke along with Garcetti; Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee; City Engineer Gary Moore and Jean Trebek, Alex Trebek’s wife.

The Trebek Center will be the city’s 28th shelter built in the “A Bridge Home” initiative, Garcetti said.

The center will be part of a “continuum of care” that helps individuals experiencing homelessness transition to permanent housing, Craft said. The facility will include behavioral and psychological services for its residents, who will enjoy privacy and the benefits of a communal living environment, Garcetti said. The ultimate goal, of course, will be to help residents secure permanent affordable housing.

Many speakers noted the symbolic importance of using such a beloved community landmark, the former Skateland, as interim housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.

“You took bitterness and made it so sweet by being able to transform this,” Garcetti said, calling Craft and Vansleeve angels. “There’s such rich memories that are here. And when you think about those high moments of families, and of human beings, we now are going to take people at their lowest moments. It will be a place to rebuild their lives.”

Craft spoke about the importance of Alex Trebek’s donation. Lee noted Alex Trebek’s involvement was important for building community trust.

“His legacy will live on through the many many lives that will be transformed by this building that bears his name,” Craft said.

Providing such housing and care is a labor of love, Jean Trebek said.

“Somehow, someway, I know Alex is aware of this center. I know he had a strong conviction and a determination in his own way to make it work,” Jean Trebek said.

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