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Jamboree Housing continues to build affordable housing complexes in O.C.'s fight against homelessness

Jamboree Housing
Seniors make crafts at one of Jamboree Housing Corporation’s resident services programs, pre-coronavirus.
(Juan Tallo / Jamboree Housing Corporation)

Despite numerous obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamboree Housing Corporation is continuing to develop affordable and permanent supportive housing throughout Orange County.

The Irvine-based nonprofit, currently in its 30th year, recently started construction on an affordable housing complex that it’s been trying to develop on Manchester Avenue in Anaheim for more than a decade. It will include units for 102 families, 20 of which will be for the formerly homeless.

The group also just closed on an Econo Lodge motel in Anaheim that will be converted to 69 units of affordable housing for veterans, the mentally ill and the formerly homeless. The property is the first of its kind in Anaheim since the city passed an ordinance last year allowing motels and other commercial and office structures to be converted to affordable housing.

Both properties will play a crucial role in Orange County’s goal to alleviate homelessness and add 2,700 permanent supportive housing units over the next five years.

With its 35 Orange County properties and more than 2,817 living units, Jamboree has been on the front lines of that movement, especially over the last few years since several shelters were built in response to a lawsuit filed by homelessness advocates that attempted to stop the eviction of homeless individuals at a Santa Ana Riverbed encampment.

“In Orange County, we have played a key role and continue to play a key role because permanent supportive housing is the only proven strategy for ending homelessness,” said Jamboree President Laura Archuleta. “Shelters are an interim fix, like a Band-Aid. Permanent supportive housing is the cure.”

Jamboree Housing Manchester property
A rendering of Jamboree Housing Corporation’s Manchester property.
(Courtesy of Jamboree Housing Corporation)

Due to the pandemic, Jamboree has had to cut back the residential support services it offers. These include school learning centers and other guidance for residents looking to get back on their feet.

The Manchester project is moving forward because funding had been secured prior to the pandemic. Construction workers have been equipped with masks and are distanced from each other while working.

Jamboree is also partnering with Orange County United Way to make sure renters have the means to purchase groceries. The nonprofit also kicked off a fundraising effort for rental assistance for its tenants.

“The majority of our residents work in lower-income jobs,” Archuleta said. “A lot of those jobs have been impacted, so our residents have been laid off or hours have been cut. We do anticipate that in May or June, we are going to have a higher percentage of families who cannot pay their rent. We are committed to deferring that rent and having them pay that back over time once they get back on their feet.”

Like most nonprofits, Jamboree has been hit hard by the pandemic economy, but its decades-long tenure exemplifies tenacity and growth.

In its infancy, Jamboree’s sole goal was to develop affordable housing in Irvine. Now with an office in Sacramento, the nonprofit has since developed more than 90 affordable housing and permanent supportive housing facilities throughout California, and it is now the second-largest nonprofit builder of quality affordable housing in California.

About 15 years ago, the organization started offering its resident services programs, and about 10 years ago Jamboree began focusing on providing housing to the formerly homeless and mentally ill. A flagship technique for Jamboree has been dedicating about 10% of a facility’s units for those living with chronic mental illness.

“Jamboree is 30 years of building for good,” Archuleta said.

Jamboree Housing
Jamboree Housing Corporation offers residents child learning services, though many of the residential services have been cut back for saftey during the coronavirus crisis.
(Juan Tallo / Jamboree Housing Corporation)

Jamboree has properties in Brea, Fullerton, Orange, Anaheim, Santa Ana, La Palma, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, San Clemente and Mission Viejo.

Jamboree is currently developing five properties in Orange County with 1,187 units.

For every property, Jamboree partners with other nonprofits for the resident resource services it offers. For the Manchester facility, the nonprofit is partnering with Head Start and the Child Guidance Center, which aims to foster good mental health in children.

According to the Kennedy Commission, Orange County needs 111,996 more affordable rental homes for low-income households to meet the current housing demand. There are 6,860 homeless individuals in the county, according to the 2019 Point-In-Time count, which is the most current.

“Half of the homeless in Orange County are just economically homeless and cannot afford a home,” Archuleta said. “We need to be creating housing for those folks to be able to move into ... The shelters were one way to quickly get folks off of the riverbed and into shelter. But then it’s stuck like traffic. There’s no place for them to go. We have a very low vacancy rate in housing, and how are folks going to jump from being homeless to paying $2,000 or $3,000 a month for rent?”

Jamboree Housing
Volunteers perform food distribution for Jamboree Housing Corporation residents, pre-coronavirus.
(Courtesy of Jamboree Housing Corporation)

Carol Grunbaum, 43, has been a resident of Jamboree’s Rockwood facility in Anaheim for about four years. A recovering drug addict, Grunbaum has wrestled with homelessness and had her children taken away years ago by child protective services.

Everything changed when she got housing.

She now lives with five of her children, and she and her partner have stable jobs.

“The feeling of not knowing if you’re going to be able to eat or if you are going to be able to put a roof over their head,” Grunbaum said of her kids.

“Deep down as a parent, you want to provide that, but being altered by a substance and being caught up in difficult times ... it’s rough and it takes a lot of energy. Being provided housing was the first most important thing that allowed me that time to clear my head and focus on everything else around me. If it wasn’t for being able to be housed, I couldn’t push forward.”

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