An Oasis on Skid Row: Homeless women find their 'ray of sunshine' in facility offering care, healing

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There is a clear link between mental illness and homelessness, but in many cases that mental illness is caused by being homeless.

Chronic lack of sleep, anxiety or the fear of being in large groups that come with traditional shelters make it difficult to provide a safe and stable environment, especially for women who are often victimized in homeless shelters.

"You kind of come here broken. At least I did. And you know, you kind of put yourself together again with the resources they have here," says Jillian Thayer, a resident of the Oasis.

Thayer is referring to the heart of Skid Row. The Oasis is a first of its kind "recuperative care" center, exclusively for homeless women on Skid Row.

Women like Cynthia Taylor-Davis.

"When I got here, because I had been in a couple of other shelters, it was like a ray of sunshine," she said.

There are no signs marking the entrance, but the Oasis is a 40-bed facility designed to help women heal from the trauma of the streets while waiting for placement in permanent housing. The fact it's so close to Skid Row is intentional.

"A lot of people, you know they view Skid Row as their community, and so it's so important for this Oasis to be in Skid Row because then women will agree to come inside," said Elizabeth Boyce, senior director of programs for the Housing for Health division at the L.A. County Department of Health Services.

The Oasis sat empty for years before undergoing a beautiful renovation that included a clinical and mental health services pavilion, nursing station and landscaped courtyard that's so beautiful it's almost hard to believe.

"Some of them they become scared because they don't think it's real, so they'll leave, but then they'll come back and it's like, 'OK, so it's still here, so it must be some truth to this,'" explained Edenia Jones, the assistant director of Wesley Health Centers.

"There's beauty in Skid Row, but it's hard to find. But this is beautiful," Thayer adds.

The Oasis can accommodate as many as 120 women per year, each staying an average of four months. Its funding is through Measure H, but the dream is for this idea of "specific care for women" to grow.

"To have a site that is just for women, that caters to women's needs is so critical" Boyce said. "And yes, this will be replicated. And yes, we hope that other cities will consider doing the same thing."

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