Echo Park's Dream Center showed off its recently upgraded facilities to the mayor and press Wednesday. The center has been providing services to the area's homeless, mentally ill and substance abusers for nearly two decades.
Mayor Villaraigosa met with the center's head, Pastor Matthew Barnett, for a tour of the center.
"I choose to look at this not from the monetary savings, but from the savings of lives," said Villaraigosa. "I see talent here, I see great futures here."
The city has long channeled funding to the center, allowing it to renovate its offices and build an additional "educational floor," designed for those residents and visitors completing a GED or participating in an Alcoholics Anonymous program.
Dream Center staff said they hope the additions will allow them to better serve foster youth who have aged out of the city adoption system, as well as single mothers struggling to hold down jobs.
“I’ve been here for three years now," said Amber, one of the center's third-floor residents. "I found this actually on the internet and came here and saw the pictures," she said. "I saw happiness in people. I saw something that I never had and that I really longed for and I just didn’t know how to get it."
Staff said they hope the renovations will allow them to assist an additional 400-500 people, on top of the 700 they currently serve.
"My dad was a pastor as well," said Barnett, discussing his vision for the center. "We both came [to Los Angeles] thinking that we were going to build a traditional church and speak on Sundays. And we came here and we just felt that we didn’t want to be great pastors. We just wanted to be city janitors, walking into city streets and picking up broken pieces."