Architect’s Contributions to Aid Homeless Honored

Oct. 17, 2007

Homeless Health Care Los Angeles (HHCLA) bestowed Michael Lehrer, FAIA, with the Plato de Oro Award for his "tireless efforts and contributions to improving the lives of the homeless in Los Angeles." HHCLA, established in 1985, strives to improve the health of homeless people through direct services, education, and advocacy by providing an alternative to life on the streets. Lehrer's architectural contributions to homelessness through his firm Lehrer Architects made him the ideal candidate for the 2007 award. "In addition to being vice president of HHCLA, Michael has been key in fulfilling HHCLA's new mission of providing housing for the homeless," states HHCLA president Marsha Temple. Lehrer has been an HHCLA board member for the past four years, and vice president for the past year.

The award-winning work of Lehrer Architects in downtown Los Angeles-such as the Downtown Drop-In Center and The James M. Woods Center-embodies the passion that Lehrer has for helping homelessness. "Michael is an incredible individual with a heart as big as the buildings he designs," comments HHCLA's executive director, Mark Casanova.

Created for the homeless community and designed on smaller budgets, the buildings are detailed as if designed for royalty. "In order to make downtown great-with Skid Row adjacent to the business professional mecca of Los Angeles-we have to take care of the bottom as well as the top," insists Lehrer. "This attitude illustrates the type of society you are creating." Both buildings have received national awards from the American Institute of Architects, and from the Los Angeles Business Council.

Lehrer Architects designed the Downtown Drop-In Center for institutionally resistant individuals at peace with living on the streets. The center welcomes its guests (as they are referred) with hot coffee, and provides eight-hour sleeping accommodations, laundry and storage facilities, showers, and a place to relax off the streets. Originally, hoping for 200 visitors a day, the Downtown Drop-In Center is going on 2 million guests throughout the past eight years. 

The James Woods Center targets people living in single resident occupancies (SROs) around the community. Serving lunch and providing entertainment and activities to engage the individuals, the center also offers AA meetings and counseling services.  "This is the community's living room," explains Lehrer. "There are hundreds of people living in SROs within blocks of the center, and this offers them a place to gather and gain a sense of community." 

Smart, modern designs from Lehrer Architects fuse effortless beauty and keen perspective into internationally acclaimed works of art. Founded by Michael Lehrer in 1985, the Los Angeles firm crafts dynamic spaces nationwide, while maintaining its hometown roots. The firm's remarkable breadth-from award-winning commercial and institutional designs to residential and landscape gems-honors its guiding belief that excellent, conscious design creates happy and productive environments.

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