Jurline Redeaux: Alumna Establishes Transitional Housing in Watts
On a Wednesday in October, Jurline Redeaux (Class of ’93, B.A., human services) pays a visit to residents of a transitional housing facility in Watts. The retired social worker and former administrator for Los Angeles County Children and Family Services established the facility 10 months ago after realizing the need for humane and available transitional housing for families with children.
“As a social worker, I didn’t see homelessness,” says Redeaux of her previous life. However, when she began linking families to social services through a service at West Angeles Church of God she became more aware of the need for transitional housing.
"At the church, I would have a mother with babies saying, ‘I have no where to go tonight,'" she recalls. "I’ve called those shelters. Ninety percent of the time, they have all these stipulations. You’ve got to only have one kid or two kids, you can’t have a boyfriend or be married. My coworkers and I said, 'If we only could find a house.'"
Her prayers, so to speak, were answered when Redeaux met at church the owners of a two-story house that was originally set up as a halfway house. She now rents the house using the nominal fee she charges residents, who can stay as long as they like. All the furnishings she found through Craigslist or she brought from her own home. Out of her own pocket, she pays the utility bills and often, the difference in the rent when there are vacancies.
“I must say on their part, they took the biggest risk,” she says of the owners. “Our agency has no grant [funding] yet, but the mortgage is still due. A lot of times, I made up the difference.”
The facility, called "New Impression," is available to individuals, single parents or families with children who have a need for short-term transitional housing. Most of Redeaux’s clients are referrals from the Los Angeles office of 211, a national nonprofit that offers assistance with health and human services including food, housing, employment, health care and counseling. She is also a partner with several agencies, including Jordan’s Disciples in Los Angeles.
Redeaux relies on her 21 years as a social worker in screening potential residents, taking into consideration not only the client’s need but also their compatibility with other residents to maintain a safe and positive home environment. She says that due to the downturn in the economy, a large and unexpected cross section of society is in need of transitional housing.
“Last year when the bottom fell out of [the economy] and I was working at the church, we had everybody calling us on the phone, from people who worked for the government to members of the church who were about to lose their house,” she recalls. “It impacted everybody and the people who were already at the lower economic strata felt it overnight. A lot of [social] programs couldn’t afford to house them and the shelters are so inhumane. I understand how people would rather live in the street.
“We need more public housing, transitional housing and we need to do something with Section 8,” she notes. “My mission statement is to provide transitional housing to help our families. It doesn’t help to go from [rented] room to room. Here, they have the freedom of going to school, working until they can save up some money. When they leave here, they get into an affordable apartment.”
Moving forward is an omnipresent theme in Redeaux’s life also. Currently working on a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, she looks forward to expanding New Impression and opening her own counseling practice. As for the housing facility, she is constantly finding new supporters. One is the Makin Islands Family Readiness Group, led by Marci Woodley. The organization, which is made up of the spouses of the crew of the USS Makin Island, plans to “adopt” residents and have made contributions of financial support, new clothing, household goods and other items.
Redeaux, is a grandmother of seven. Her daughter Lezonnia Iwuoha is also a graduate of CSU Dominguez Hills (Class of ’01, B.A., human services) and her son Frederick Redeaux IV is an electrical technician chief currently assigned to the USS Makin Island. She looks back on the rigors of single parenthood and returning to college at a mature age as less challenging than taking on New Impression.
“This has been probably the biggest growth I’ve had in my life - taking a dream, going on blind faith, and putting myself out there,” she says. “I learned a lot about myself, about my faith. I’ve put my own home in jeopardy. Raising my kids as a single parent, I thought that was hard. It was. Going back to school at 40, I thought that was hard. It was. But when you take in account the lives of other people that are depending on you - that caused me to grow up.”
Redeaux has a special empathy for those in need of housing, particularly single parents, having been left to struggle with inevitable homelessness herself. Abandoned as a Marine Corps wife stationed in North Carolina with a young son and daughter, she was fortunate enough to be helped by members of the military community that had been her home and where she had begun working on her Associate of Arts degree at Craven Community College in Newburn.
“I was renting a house, but I couldn’t afford it so I was going to be homeless,” she says. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. One of my classmates told her husband that her girlfriend was going to be homeless. He was a commanding officer and went to one of his subordinates and said, ‘This woman needs a place to stay. You live by yourself and you’re gone a lot flying all over the place.’ So this [soldier] who didn’t know me, took me and my kids in.
“He said to me the day he gave me the keys, ‘If it was my sister, I would want somebody to do the same thing for her.’ It allowed me to go to school, to stay in the community that I had gotten to know. That’s why my heart is in [New Impression]. You can’t always go back and thank the people who helped you along the way, but you can at least know that you can pay it forward.”
For more information on New Impression contact (310) 991-1928 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Joanie Harmon