San Fernando Valley’s First Homeless Shelter Honors the Late Alex Trebek

“Sadly, Alex passed away before I had the opportunity to tell him about this new site, but he did know his donation would go towards a homeless shelter,” HoTV Founder & CEO told LAMag

Hope of the Valley just opened the doors to San Fernando Valley’s first homeless shelter, all in part to a large donation from the late Alex Trebek. 

“Sadly, Alex passed away before I had the opportunity to tell him about this new site, but he did know his donation would go towards a homeless shelter,” HoTV Founder & CEO Ken Craft told Los Angeles. “Alex was keenly aware of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in LA. Like all of us who live in Los Angeles, the growing number of people living on the streets is unsettling.”

Trebek wanted to get involved and help the city’s most vulnerable, so he invited Craft and his wife to a taping of his show, Jeopardy. There, he swore he’d back their efforts to reduce homelessness in the city he called home, and wrote a $500,000 check to help back their efforts. Craft told the TV personality that his money would be the foundation for their next shelter. 

This site will bring 107 people indoors. Within a four to twelve month period, we will work to transition residents into permanent housing.

Not long after, Trebek died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 80, after 20 months of fighting pancreatic cancer. He never had the opportunity to tour the facilities his money created, but once Craft learned of Trebek’s passing, he contacted his family to ask if they could name the Northridge site in his honor. 

“He would have loved walking the halls of the Trebek Center noting the bright colors, natural lighting and cutting-edge architecture,” Craft said. “The site will include most of Alex’s books from his home library.  Much of his memorabilia will be displaced onsite and his spirit of generosity and compassion will permeate the facility.”

Inside the facilities

In 2020, Hope of the Valley purchased a 23,000-square-foot Northridge Roller Rink, previously known as Skateland, to convert into a 107-bed housing facility to offer further shelter and services for unhoused Angelenos. For the past 60 years, the site has been an famous family recreation center for Valley and Southern California residents. However, the roller rink was unable to continue operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hope of the Valley reached out to local City Councilmember John Lee for support on the project to purchase the empty facility and transform the space into a center for interim housing. After evaluating the opportunity, Councilman Lee said he would fully support the project and ask that it become part of Mayor Garcetti’s “A Bridge Home” initiative, thus securing another major portion of funding for the renovation.

“Whereas Hope of the Valley recognizes that permanent, supportive, and affordable housing are the answer to ending homelessness, we also realize that the streets cannot be the waiting room for permanent housing,” Craft said. “Individuals living on the streets are in survival mode. It is nearly impossible to hold down a job or address mental health or addiction issues while living unsheltered.”

We must bring people in doors so we can stabilize and address the root, not the fruit of issues plaguing the unhoused

With more temporary housing options for the homeless popping up around the country, more nearby residents are fearful of crime and grime being introduced to their once quiet homes. Though Craft admits it’s a “natural and normal” concern for residents to have, he hopes they can start looking at the larger picture. 

“Fear overrides facts, and in the absence of information, people create their own narrative,” he said. “So, in partnership with Councilman Lee, we had numerous meetings with local stakeholders and constituents explaining what the project was, what it wasn’t and safeguards that would be in place such as 24-hour security, onsite mental health services, case managers, housing navigators and job training.”

trebek open space alex trebek cancer last season jeopardy
Alex Trebek died of cancer in 2020.

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