Developers Unveil $1-Million Effort to Help the Homeless

Times Staff Writer

An organization of Orange County developers Monday unveiled a $1-million, countywide effort--called HomeAid--to help the homeless with cash assistance programs and the construction or renovation of housing.

Officials from the Building Industry Assn. pledged at a press conference that they will build two new housing facilities and renovate three existing structures by the end of this year--one for each of the county’s five supervisorial districts.

The housing, which will be built in neighborhoods with existing homeless populations, will add only about 35 “transitional housing” beds, but advocates for the homeless were grateful for money, noting that it is four times what they receive from the state each year.

The construction is expected to cost about $500,000. Mike Lennon, community affairs manager for the BIA, said the organization hopes to raise another $500,000 that could be used for donations to various homeless support groups or projects.


“It’s logical that we’re involved in this process because we build housing,” said Bob Albertson, president of Presley of Southern California, a developer.

“It is ironic that in one of the wealthiest counties per capita in the United States, there are people who work hard and yet still don’t have a place to call home.”

Government housing officials estimate that there are between 8,000 and 10,000 homeless people in Orange County.

Advocates for the homeless praised the BIA on Monday and said the move is especially important because it represents the first major effort by private industry to help solve the homeless problem in Orange County.


But even with the significant contribution, they said they did not expect a major impact on the county’s homeless population.

Scott Mather, head of the county’s Homeless Task Force, said that the county has about 200 transitional-housing beds and that it needs about 4,500.

“But it’s a beginning,” Mather said. “The BIA is to be commended for starting this.”

Transitional housing is the second of three stages involved in moving a family or individual from the streets to permanent housing. Transitional housing--often an apartment--is where the needy are allowed a longer stay with the intent of saving enough money to get back into the permanent housing market. The stay is usually between 60 and 180 days at little or no cost.


The first stage in the process is emergency shelters, and the third stage is low-income permanent housing.

The BIA had each supervisor pick a project in the supervisor’s district in order to spread the five projects around the county.

They include the Thomas House on Keel Street in Garden Grove in Supervisor Roger R. Stanton’s 1st District. The BIA plans to renovate six apartments and add about 20 new beds in a building recently purchased by the Garden Grove Redevelopment Agency.

Second District Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder chose the Interval House in unincorporated Midway City. The Interval House, which will be expanded, is a shelter for abused women.


Rebuild New Vista House

The BIA’s project will rebuild the New Vista House at 514 W. Amerige St. in Fullerton, which is in Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez’s 3rd District. The project is on the site of a shelter that burned down.

It will also build three duplexes with three bedrooms each on Pearl Street in El Modena, which is in Supervisor Don R. Roth’s 4th District.

And it plans renovation work at the Anchor House in San Clemente, which is in Supervisor Thomas F. Riley’s 5th District.


Mather said he recognized a degree of politics involved in choosing one project for each supervisor. But he also said there is a significant need spread throughout the county for the facilities.

John Erskine, executive director of the BIA, said the organization wasn’t trying to gain favor with the supervisors by giving a project to each district. “We’re already in good favor with them,” he said.

Erskine said the projects were distributed to each supervisor because the need is spread throughout the county, and “we knew if we got political support from the supervisors, it would make a better public-private partnership.”