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Santa Monica Steps Up for the Homeless

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By Daniel Larios
Special to the Lookout

February 20, 2014 -- Santa Monica will start a new project Friday designed to provide housing to homeless people as a first step towards getting their lives together.

“Step Up On Colorado,” the second joint venture of The Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (HCHC) and Step Up On Second, will break ground to fanfare Friday, walking distance from the new Expo Line station in Downtown Santa Monica.

“Step Up on Colorado combines HCHC's 25-year record of developing award-winning, service-enriched affordable housing with Step-Up's 30 years of providing recovery services for individuals experiencing mental health issues,” said Bill Harris, Executive Director of HCHC. “We are delighted to be co-developing a new building for Santa Monica's most vulnerable neighbors.”

The five-story, $14 million housing development will have 32 studio units for homeless people with special needs and two units (a one bedroom unit and a studio unit) for on-site managers.

Once the project opens in March 2015, service coordinators will be on hand to provide on-site services, such as counseling, job training and financial management.

The service coordinators will also connect residents to other community services within Santa Monica, depending on individual needs.

“This is HCHC's first project in the City of Santa Monica. We were asked to partner with Step Up on Second because we are the leader in low income housing in Los Angeles, having constructed 700 units within the LA area,” said Blair Miller, HCHC's Senior Project Manager.

“We've been extremely impressed with Santa Monica's commitment towards solving chronic homelessness and I’m not just saying that,” she said.

The project follows Santa Monica’s tradition of using a “Housing First” model, which is based on the concept that a homeless person's primary need is to obtain stable housing, and that other issues, such as mental illness, unemployment, or drug abuse, should be addressed once housing is obtained.

This approach is an alternative to the more widely-used system known as Continuum of Care, where homeless individuals are gradually moved through different levels of housing in order to move them closer to independent housing.

Speaking at the ceremony will be LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor, and Sean Rogan, Executive Director of the Community Development Commission of LA County.

“This is another wonderful project from Step Up On Second and HCHC. I'm glad to be partnering with them on this project,” said O'Connor.

“They help put people who are chronically homeless and who suffer from mental illness into affordable housing and provide them with support and the kinds of services to move themselves forward and upward,” she said.

“Santa Monica is a 20 year partner with Step Up and our commitment to this cause is our core value,” she said.  “I'm proud that Santa Monica is the leader in this issue.”

After the ceremony, guests are invited to a reception at the Santa Monica Place mall, in the 3rd floor community room. Parking is available at Santa Monica Place, a short walk east of the construction site.  A van shuttle will be made available.

Santa Monica architecture firm Killefer Flammang Architects (KFA), which specializes in affordable, special needs housing, designed this “state-of-the-art” project.

“The design strategy provides residents a variety of spaces to enjoy alone or in small groups, while still being part of the larger community,” said Lise Bornstein, Senior Associate at KFA.

According to Bornstein, the design incorporates a green approach which will result in a LEED Silver certification, with materials chosen not only for durability, but also for sustainability and low environmental impact.

Funding for the project was provided by the City of Santa Monica, the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, Wells Fargo Bank, and Raymond James Housing Opportunities Fund.

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