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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.”