Sanborn Hotel Apartments: A Crisis of Urgency in Homeless Housing

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The degraded state of the Sanborn Hotel Apartments is apparent from the sidewalk. Holes have been smashed in the wire-reinforced windows of its front doors. And one of the latches doesn’t work, leaving the building open to intruders, who roam the halls at night turning doorknobs, trying to get into open apartments.

Inside, a rancid smell permeates the hallways, begging for Lysol. The manager’s office is dark and empty, as residents say it has been since the latest occupant left last summer. In bathroom No. 2 on the second floor there is no water in the toilet but plenty of human waste.

The Sanborn is one of the 29 buildings owned by Skid Row Housing Trust, a nonprofit that has for more than 30 years been a paragon of homeless housing. But the very model that helped it revive some of downtown’s oldest hotels is now bringing it down.

Earlier this year, leaders of the trust disclosed deepening financial shortfalls that made the upkeep of those buildings impossible. Their solution, guided by the Los Angeles Housing Department, was to turn the entire portfolio over to other housing organizations, a process that at best would take months of difficult negotiations.

Conditions at the Sanborn, observed last week by The Times, show a crisis of far more urgency.

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