Prince James Story and Aryana Noroozi |

“Housing is healing,” Step Up President and CEO Tod Lipka said last week during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new supportive housing project for chronically unhoused seniors in the city of San Bernardino.

In 2022, San Bernardino’s unhoused population increased by 7% from 2020 numbers, according to the county’s most recent Point-in-time(PIT) Report. 

San Bernardino leaders declared a local emergency in response and within six weeks, a coalition of state and local representatives joined with Step Up and Shangri-La Industries to create this housing opportunity for seniors in need. 

Seventy-six chronically unhoused seniors will now have a place to call home. The development was built at the former location of San Bernardino’s All-Star Lodge. The project was funded by Shangri-La Industries and Governor Gavin Newsom’s Homekey Program, an initiative created to address the housing crisis in the state. 

Safe Spaces

“This project is a testament to what we can do when government and private industries come together to solve complex problems and deliver services to our communities,” said Andy Meyers, CEO of Shangri-La. “We must be creative in our solutions, tackling homelessness at its core. These 76 units will provide safe spaces for the unhoused community that they can finally call home.”

According to the Homekey Program,  5,911 units and 120 unique project sites were created in round one of the program, housing over 8,000 individuals.

“This project exemplifies the transformative Homekey solutions providing thousands of individuals across California with the supportive services they need and a safe place to call home,” said Governor Newsom. “I applaud San Bernardino and local leaders across California for partnering with the state to meet the urgency of this moment and make a lasting change in our communities.”

Residents play bingo in the recreational game room of San Bernardino’s new permanent supportive housing for chronically unhoused seniors on March 16, 2023. The facility is equipped to support its community with onsite social and mental health services and professionals, including a live-in manager. The unit, developed at the repurposed All Star Lounge, was funded by Governor Newsom’s Homekey Program and Shangri-La Industries. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local).

Data from the PIT report also showed that nearly half of those surveyed were classified as chronically homeless, meaning that they have been unhoused for a year and have a disabling mental illness, chronic health condition, and physical disability.

In the city of San Bernardino, there are a total of 238 sheltered, 120 in transitional housing, and 992 unsheltered individuals. 

When asked what city they first became homeless in, 41% of those interviewed said San Bernardino. 

“Providing them (unhoused population) with wraparound preventive care is critical to meeting their needs. And we alleviate any further risk of them being back in the streets,” San Bernardino Mayor Helen Tran said. “Homelessness and a lack of affordable housing are a crisis in San Bernardino and our region. These are the types of results-driven partnerships that will be key to ensuring folks are kept off the streets and have a place to call home.”

The new housing unit will provide 76 single occupancies, fully-furnished 250-square-foot apartments, and one permanent onsite manager unit. Apartments will also have a TV, kitchen, and high-speed internet. 

Eight units are explicitly designed for occupants with mobility issues, and four units are outfitted for aurally or visually impaired individuals, according to the Director of Inland Empire Housing Services for Step Up, Gregory Coffos. 

All units will be fully furnished, and residents will be offered wraparound services provided by Step Up.

A single occupancy unit is prepared for a resident to move in March. This unit is one of the 76 fully-furnished 250-square-foot apartments with a TV, kitchen, and high-speed internet. The building will be home to chronically unhoused seniors and is equipped to support the community, with onsite social and mental health services and professionals, including a live-in manager. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local).
George Coffos, Director of Inland Empire Housing Services for Step Up, gives the attendees of the ribbon cutting a tour of the permanent supportive housing building. It contains 6 fully-furnished 250-square-foot apartments with a TV, kitchen, and high-speed internet. Step Up is an Inland Empire based organization that provides the unhoused and those suffering from addiction with resources to recover, stabilize, and integrate through housing and treatment services.  (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local).

The artwork on the outside of the apartment building was completed by the world-renowned artist group YANOE x ZOUEH.  

Ryan Safati (YANOE) attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and spoke about the idea and his thinking while painting the building. 

Two large murals of unhoused individuals painted on the back of the building are intended to show that there is a brighter side of  what the new housing unit can be. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local).

“If you walk around the building, starting from the front to the back, it slowly starts to introduce color and a little liveliness. And then on the side of the building, you can actually see a window where there’s a beautiful sunset with flowers kind of trickling through, which allows you to see life within the building.” 

They painted two large murals of unhoused individuals on the back of the building. Safati said he wanted to “Portray homelessness in murals and actually show that there is a brighter side to what this (housing unit) could be.”

Report for America Corps member and Black Voice News Climate and Environmental Justice reporter, Prince James Story was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an intersectional journalist with experience covering news and sports across numerous mediums. Story aims to inform the public of social inequities and discriminatory practices while amplifying the voices of those in the communities harmed. Story earned his master’s degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University-Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication and a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Contact Prince James with tips, comments, or concerns at or via Twitter @PrinceJStory.

Black Voice News photojournalist Aryana Noroozi was born in San Diego, California and graduated with a master’s degree from The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Her love for visual storytelling led her to document immigrant and deportee communities and those struggling with addiction. She was a 2020 Pulitzer Center Crisis Reporting Fellow and a GroundTruth Project Migration Fellow. She is currently a CatchLight/Report for America corps member employed by Black Voice News. You can learn more about her at You can email her at