It is estimated that more than fifty percent of men and women living on the streets suffer from mental illnesses. For many, their condition is compounded by alcohol and substance abuse/addiction. Because they often do not receive even the basic services once provided by psychiatric hospitals, these individuals have joined the ranks of the homeless in staggering numbers.
The Salvation Army Bell Shelter opened in January 1988 with help from Judge Harry Pregerson, who recognized a critical need for emergency shelter for homeless people in southeast Los Angeles County. The shelter is located in a converted 40,000 square foot hangar formerly used as a U.S. Army Air Base, in the city of Bell. It is the only program of its kind in California to fulfill the objectives of the 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, which encouraged the use of vacant Federal facilities as homeless shelters.
Bell Shelter - the largest homeless shelter west of the Mississippi - operates a comprehensive program that offers transitional care for up to 350 homeless men and women. The goal of Bell Shelter is to meet the needs of the homeless population by addressing the myriad of reasons why people become homeless and assisting them in developing a higher quality of life through independence. Services offered include: emergency shelter, transitional housing, substance abuse rehabilitation, case management, counseling, on-site health care & medical referrals, HIV/AIDS education, ESL classes, computer training, vocational assistance, job referrals and life skills classes.
In response to an increasing number of homeless, chronically ill adults in Los Angeles, The Salvation Army Bell Shelter, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and ENKI Health and Research Systems, Inc., developed a program to provide on-site assessment and treatment for homeless clients who are mentally ill or dual diagnosed with mental illness and substance abuse. Funding and support came from the California Department of Mental Health, The California Endowment, The State Department of Housing & Community Development, The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles.
Bell Shelter aims to address the problems and barriers that keep homeless men and women from achieving self-sufficiency. In addition to housing, Bell provides the following services:
- Case Management - All client's see a case manager weekly
- Supportive and Transitional Housing to help with a client's reintegration into society
- Individual and Group Counseling - Psychological help is provided through a collaboration with ENKI mental health services
- Licensed 128 bed drug and alcohol program - Client's receive treatment in a social model recovery center
- ‘Back on Track' program - Client's address the emotional and psychological barriers to escaping homelessness and learn to overcome them
- Alternate sentencing for non-violent offenders
- Job Search Assistance - This program assists homeless clients procure meaningful employment
- Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program - Provides employment linkages for homeless veterans
- On site adult education classes offered through Los Angeles Unified School District - These classes lead to a General Education Diploma (GED), computer competency, HIV/AIDS awareness and/or a security guard certificate.
- Mobile Medial Services - Available to clients at Bell Shelter three or four times per week.