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A powerful look at the impact of housing LA’s homeless

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This short film tours the life-changing developments of the Skid Row Housing Trust

When filmmaker Myles Kramer moved to a neighborhood near Downtown three years ago, he was surprised to be confronted by the city’s homelessness crisis on his own block. “Even on my own street, there’s a small line of tents,” he tells Curbed. “It was just a shock to move here and see that.”

Kramer knew right away he wanted to tell a story about LA’s homeless residents. He was driving through Downtown when he saw the Star Apartments, the 100-unit prefab supportive housing development in the heart of Skid Row. He began researching the building and its developer, Skid Row Housing Trust, which has 26 properties across LA to house the formerly homeless. “They really are assets to the city,” says Kramer.

Community by Design: Skid Row Housing Trust is the resulting short film, which focuses on Skid Row Housing Trust’s mission to house what has become the highest number of unsheltered people anywhere in the country, according to Mike Alvidrez, CEO of the Skid Row Housing Trust.

Kramer interviewed dozens of Skid Row Housing Trust residents about how the buildings—designed by Skid Row Housing Trust’s longtime collaborator Michael Maltzan, Killefer Flammang, and Brooks and Scarpa—have transformed their lives.

“The people are in tune with the way the design helps them—in countless ways,” says Kramer. Many residents cited the buildings’ natural light and open space. Musicians talked about the luxury of having rehearsal rooms and a safe place to store their instruments.

“One of the biggest assets is simply being able to look out the window,” says Kramer of the Star Apartments residents. “They can see Sixth Street, and for some of them, that’s where they were living.”

Although Kramer’s film focuses on how the design of the buildings improve daily life for its residents, his goal for the film was to help Angelenos understand how housing for the homeless could positively impact the greater community. “Everyone has this impression or idea when you hear about housing for the previously homeless,” he says. “It’s about changing that stereotype.”

Kramer is now working on a longer version of the film.

Community by Design: Skid Row Housing Trust will screen at the Architecture and Design Film Festival Friday night at 6:45 p.m. and Sunday, March 18 at 1:30 p.m. Check the festival schedule for details and for additional films featuring Albert Frey, Frank Gehry, Bjarke Ingels, Glenn Murcutt, and more.