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St. Vincent’s Hospital, Los Angeles, recently closed after more than 160 years of service. Community activists, including members of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders, are encouraging Los Angeles city and county leaders to re-purpose the facility to provide housing and support services for the homeless. Photo: Los Angeles Business Journal

The Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders on Jan. 23 joined the call for repurposing L.A.’s recently shuttered St. Vincent Medical Center to provide mental health care, supportive services and housing for the homeless – an effort aided by recent votes of the county board of supervisors and city council.

Representing some 6 million people of faith, the religious leaders unanimously signed a letter thanking L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis and L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell for their advocacy and actions aimed at purchasing the facility, which was forced to close this month after a bankruptcy sale failed.

The religious leaders, who include Episcopal Bishop John Harvey Taylor, pledged their ongoing support of the effort also championed by L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez.

“Please extend many thanks on behalf of the Supervisor for the quick support and letter from the Council of Religious Leaders,” Waqas Rehman, a deputy to Solis, replied by email to the council secretary. “We are truly appreciative of your support in exploring and looking at all options to address the homelessness crisis, the biggest challenge that faces Los Angeles today. I will keep you updated on the progress but expect the results of bids around mid-February.”

O’Farrell deputy Star Parsamyan also thanked the religious leaders for their support of transforming the 10-acre site located at the intersection of Third and Alvarado streets, St. Vincent’s longtime home as the oldest continuously operating hospital in Los Angeles.

“Such use of St. Vincent Medical Center would fittingly continue the legacy of its 164-year history of benevolent care at the heart of Los Angeles,” the religious leaders wrote. “As we know, a strategic opportunity of this magnitude and potential occurs only rarely; therefore, let us move quickly and effectively to achieve the greatest common good.”

Text of letter follows:

January 23, 2020

Dear Supervisor Solis and Councilmember O’Farrell,

Representing Southland faith groups together comprising more than 6 million members, we, the undersigned members of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders thank you for your leadership and ongoing work seeking to repurpose St. Vincent Medical Center to provide mental healthcare, supportive services, and housing for our Angeleno siblings experiencing homelessness.

We fully endorse this concept and pray that it can be realized to help relieve the dire need gripping our region, and we pledge to you our support and assistance in this effort. We further agree that such use of St. Vincent Medical Center would fittingly continue the legacy of its 164-year history of benevolent care at the heart of Los Angeles.

As we know, a strategic opportunity of this magnitude and potential occurs only rarely; therefore, let us move quickly and effectively to achieve the greatest common good.

Sincerely yours,

The Rev. John Cager, Council President
Senior Pastor, Ward A.M.E. Church, Los Angeles

Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, Council Vice-President
Vice President, Board of Rabbis of Southern California,
Temple Beth Hillel, Valley Village

Canon Robert Williams, Council Secretary
Canon for Common Life, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Venerable Bhante Chao Chu
President, Los Angeles Buddhist Union
Vice-President, Interreligious Council of Southern California

The Rev. Linda Culbertson
General Presbyter, Presbytery of the Pacific

Archbishop Hovnan Derderian
Primate, Western Diocese, Armenian Church

Mr. Randolph Dobbs
Baha’i Center of Los Angeles

Sister Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker
President, Ward Economic Development Corporation

Bishop R. Guy Erwin
Southwest California Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rabbi Morley Feinstein
Senior Rabbi Emeritus, University Synagogue, Los Angeles

Bishop Grant K. Hagiya
California-Pacific Conference, United Methodist Church

Swami Mahayogananda
Monastic, Vedanta Society of Southern California
Vice President, Interreligious Council of Southern California

Commissioner Nirnjan Singh Khalsa
California Sikh Council

Brother Omar Ricci
Past President, Islamic Center of Southern California

Pravrajika Saradeshaprana
Monastic, Vedanta Society of Southern California

Swami Sarvadevananda
Spiritual Leader, Vedanta Society of Southern California

Right Rev. Alexei Smith
Interreligious-Ecumenical Officer, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Sister Hedab Tarifi
Past President, Islamic Center of Southern California

The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Rev. Dr. Felix Villanueva
Southern California-Nevada Conference, United Church of Christ

Mr. Roy Weinstein
Past President, University Synagogue, Los Angeles