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Los Angeles Forecloses on|Homeless Children’s Shelter

LOS ANGELES (CN) - After delaying the expansion of a homeless children's shelter for 6 years, the Los Angeles Housing Department is foreclosing on a loan it gave the Safe Haven Homeless Children's Shelter - for the sole reason that the shelter has not reopened its expanded facility, the shelter claims in Superior Court. The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law has run the Safe Haven shelter for minority and immigrant children since 1990.

The plaintiffs say they got a $129,000 loan from the city in 1997. That financed the first half of the shelter's planned expansion from a 6- to a 12-bed shelter.

The Center says the two-phase loan was part of its plan with the city from the beginning. The city "agreed to waive interest and repayment of the principal provided the Center use the property to provide 'temporary shelter and support services 24 hours a day ... to 120 homeless immigrant youths a year' for 13 years," according to the complaint.

The group says the city promised to extend a second loan to complete the expansion project.

The Center says it finished the first phase of construction in 2002, adding three bedrooms and an office to the 80-year-old home. But when it applied for the second loan, it says, the city stalled for two years.

The Center says that by the time the city approved the $162,000 second loan, the cost of labor and materials had risen, leaving it $80,000 short.

The parties spent two more years negotiating a proposed third loan to cover the shortfall, and whether the shelter would reopen as a 6-bed facility until renovations were completed.

In May 2007, the city finally agreed to extend the $162,000 second loan. In exchange, it demanded that the Center cover the shortfall, hire an engineer, get permits from the city Department of Building and Safety, and complete construction by September 2007.

The Center says it complied with the city's requirements and was ready to build, but the Department waited until January 2008 to issue permits. Instead of hurrying the permit process in order to meet its own deadline, or allowing the Center to begin construction as the first permits were approved, the city allegedly began foreclosure proceedings.

In May 2008, the city recorded a default notice on the first loan "solely because Safe Haven is not being operated as a 12-bed shelter," according to the lawsuit. The city allegedly scheduled a sale of the property for Dec. 4.

The Center wants an injunction stopping the sale and quieting title to the property. It also wants the second loan so that it can finish renovations and reopen.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Coalition estimates that there are at least 10,000 homeless children in the city.

The shelter is represented by Angela Viramontes, with the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

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