VENICE — There will be 20 fewer homeless individuals living on the streets after a local nonprofit organization bought an apartment building that will provide housing for the down and out.
The Venice Community Housing Corp. recently acquired the 20-unit apartment building at 15 Horizon Ave. for $3.6 million with plans to move in homeless men and women by the end of next year.
The organization provides affordable housing to very low-income people with a focus on the homeless, providing such shelter to nearly 500 people in 2008.
Known as the Venice Horizon Suites, the building is located on the corner of Speedway, just a block east of the beach. Steve Clare, the executive director, said the organization was in negotiations to buy the Rose Hotel but failed to reach an agreement.
“Quiet fortuitously, this other building came on the market,” Clare said. “It’s in terrific shape and fully furnished and it was actually a much better building than the one we were looking at previously so we’re excited to find it.”
The organization will establish a housing waiting list through the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and St. Joseph Center, which will provide support services to the clients, including money management to help them keep on top of rent payments and utility bills. Residents of the Horizon building will also have access to St. Joseph Center’s food pantry.
Va Lecia Adams, the executive director of St. Joseph Center, said that support services are key to the transition from homelessness to permanent housing.
“Having a supportive person they connect with is essential to stabilizing themselves and planning a path forward,” Adams said.
The acquisition was made possible through a $750,000 loan by the city of Los Angeles that will be forgivable because of the services that the organization will provide to the homeless, Clare said. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Venice, nominated the Venice Community Housing Corp. for the loan through the Channel Gateway Fund, which was created by former City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter.
The remaining funds for acquisition came from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, which is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping community groups provide affordable housing and supportive services for homeless people.
Clare said that it will take roughly a year and a half to put together a permanent financing plan. L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has also committed a $250,000 grant to assist.
Rosendahl toured the building several months ago and called it an ideal opportunity for the homeless to “get out of the dark and out of the alley.”
Venice has the highest homeless population in Rosendahl’s district.
“Many of the homeless have mental health and alcohol and drug dependency and many of the folks are eating out of our garbage cans and sleeping in our alleys and need our help,” he said.
He noted that the state of New York has spent $3 billion over the past 10 years to create permanent housing with supportive services. While the Horizon Avenue project is small, those who will get to live there will have a chance to make it out of homelessness, he said.
“We’re delighted we’re able to kick-start this project,” Rosendahl said.
There are currently nine tenants who still live in the building and will be entitled to relocation assistance when they’re asked to leave sometime next year. Clare said that he will ask the state permission to lease the remaining units to qualifying formerly homeless individuals and will begin moving them in within a few weeks. If the state denies permission, the organization will continue to market the building to market-rate tenants for short-term leasing.
Clare said the building is in good shape and does not need major repair. Several of the units will undergo some refurbishment. All units are already furnished.
He anticipates that most of the people who will eventually rent the units will be able to become permanent tenants, recalling one client from another building who went on to become a homeowner.
“We hope that even our permanent housing is transitional in the sense that people will be able to move in, stay there, get healthy, receive the resources they need to be successful and if able, move on to subsidized housing,” Clare said.