New building is on very top of Alexandria House wish list; donations sought

| December 2, 2021 | 0 Comments

FAMILIES SOCIALIZING at the Alexandria House holiday party.

Sister Judy Vaughan, executive director of Alexandria House, is hopeful she will have enough donations by the end of the month to purchase an adjacent building for low-cost, permanent, supportive housing.

The nun, who is with the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet, has managed Alexandria House transitional shelter for 25 years on prayers, communal meals and largely private donations.

Her goal of raising $12 million to buy and renovate the 39-unit apartment building directly behind Alexandria House is not a pipe dream.“We’ve been really lucky. We’ve been really blessed. We’ve had a lot of miracles. …

“There’s something captivating and motivating about this place,” Vaughan added.

Alexandria House consists of two turn-of-the-last-century homes, with palace-worthy ornate molding and rich wood paneling, and they are indeed charming.

But Vaughan’s sparkling blue eyes, determined spirit and formidable mission are also compelling.

Front lines

She has been on the front lines helping homeless women and children get a new start in life, and she works to ensure they succeed after they leave.
“I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t be homeless again. And I learned it’s important to be part of a neighborhood.”

She learned that lesson, she said, at the House of Ruth, a homeless shelter for women in East Los Angeles, which she ran before opening Alexandria House.
The shelters reach out to the community with yoga classes, a book club, after-school programs and a teen center. Food donated by grocery stores is given to neighbors.

A popular monthly thrift sale “shopping day,” which had been paused during the pandemic, is expected to resume in December.
In turn, shelter residents gain by being part of the community.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Judy Vaughan and Pamela Hope, director of grants and events, at Alexandria House. The 39-unit apartment building that is for sale is in the rear.

Vaughan is hoping to expand her mission with the apartment building. It is in an ideal spot, just steps behind their back yard on South Kenmore Avenue. The building had been a retirement home for the Immaculate Heart Community, which plans to put the building on the market if the money isn’t pledged soon, Vaughan said. If sold to a developer, the building will most likely be demolished and replaced with luxury apartments. (Alexandria House’s two homes are the only single-family houses left on the street.)

Green and yellow houses

A fire two years ago in the green house left considerable damage, but it has since been renovated and features a new kitchen with Carrara quartz countertops and green Shaker–style cabinetry. (Miracle Mile-based architect William Hefner and his associate Melissa Joan Stinar Dana donated their time and expertise in the renovation.)

The shelter is largely privately funded, as government money is funneled into larger organizations. Those bigger organizations are valuable in helping to combat the homelessness crisis, but they do not target women and children, and they often do not offer counseling or other wrap-around services, and they have a lower rate of long-term success, i.e., their residents often end up back on the streets, Vaughan notes.

The 28 women and children at Alexandria House have fled traumatic situations ranging from domestic violence and human trafficking to molestation, homelessness, hunger and poverty.

A dog tale

When nothing else worked after one six-year-old boy cried and screamed every night — he was traumatized from seeing his mother beaten by his father — Vaughan noticed her rescue dog, Jerry, was disturbed by the boy’s behavior, and so she introduced the hound-Lab mix.

SISTER Judy Vaughan with her accidental therapy dog, Jerry.

“He’s concerned about you,” she told the boy. “Can you let him know you’re okay?” she asked.

It worked. The little boy’s anger dissipated as he focused on caring for the dog. While there was more work and healing ahead, it was a start in the right direction.

The dog had been rescued from death row at a shelter and recommended to Vaughan for his people skills. But “I didn’t know he would be a service dog,” Vaughan smiles.

Two-year stays

Residents at Alexandria House typically stay two years while they undergo counseling, go back to school, and take literacy and parenting classes. Some enter an entrepreneur program, and, finally, residents are assisted in an apartment search.

Many return long after they have left to join in communal dinners, a bustling time at the shelter. Members of The Ebell of Los Angeles and NGA Hancock Park both adopt a day a month to help in preparing and enjoying the feasts.

Other local supporters include Wilshire Rotary Club and The Ahmanson Foundation.

Entry to the shelter is highly competitive, as some 1,000 callers a month are turned away. “If we had more resources, we’d help more people. It’s tragic really,” said Pamela Hope, Alexandria House director of grants and events.

Vaughan acknowledges that the shelter is a small dent in helping the city’s homelessness crisis. Its solution requires a personal moral choice combined with changes in public policies, she says.

“People don’t start life from the same place,” Vaughan said.

Michele Richards, Alexandria House development director, said that in addition to safety and security, the shelters provide a touchstone to dreams.

One resident came in wanting to get a nursing certificate. After a few weeks at Alexandria House, she upped her ambition to becoming an RN. “Knowing she was safe and her children were safe, she was able to dream big,” said Richards, a Van Ness Avenue resident on staff at Alexandria House for 20 years.


So far, private donors have committed $4 million to the Kenmore Capital Campaign, said Hope.

The Marilyn and John Wells Family Foundation of those Hancock Park residents has pledged $1 million for the purchase of the building and another $1 million for maintenance over the next 10 years.

Other pledges are much smaller.

“Any amount is welcome,” said Vaughan.

To donate, or for more information about the Kenmore Capital Campaign, visit or contact Pamela Hope at, or call 213-381-2649.


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