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Nonprofit turning motel into housing for homeless as part of O.C. effort to build 2,700 units by 2025

Jamboree Housing Corp. announced today that construction has begun on a 57-unit supportive housing community
A rendering of the Jamboree Housing Corp.'s Ascent supportive housing community in Buena Park.
(For Jamboree by Architecture Design Collaborative)

An Orange County nonprofit recently broke ground on a project to transform a motel into a permanent supportive housing facility, with about half of the units set aside for the mentally ill.

When the Jamboree Housing Corp.‘s new 57-unit project is completed, it will be the nonprofit’s first permanent supportive housing community in Buena Park.

The development — named “Ascent” — is replacing the defunct Airport Inn, located about 3 miles from Knott’s Berry Farm. The location was chosen for the project due to its proximity near a medical clinic, public park and public transportation.

Households qualify to stay at Ascent if they earn between 30% to 50% of the median income of Orange County, which was $103,000 in 2020. The average resident is expected to pay about $283 a month.

Considering that surrounding communities can frequently become aggrieved at the prospect of having financially struggling people living next to them, Jamboree and the city held community meetings and discussed the project at City Council study sessions. However, due to public concerns, there will be surveillance at Ascent and people will need a key fob for entry.

Jamboree will oversee supportive services for all residents, which includes managing medications, mental health counseling and life skills training. The Orange County Healthcare Agency will be the service provider for the tenants with mental illnesses.

“Ascent is the perfect example of what’s possible when you have a committed city partner, targeted county dollars and a creative development team like Jamboree who can transform old structures into new, community assets like supportive housing,” County Supervisor Doug Chaffee said in a press release.

A picture of a homeless man sleeping in the 1800 block of Placentia Avenue in Costa Mesa during January 2019.
A homeless man sleeps on the street in Orange County.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Jamboree has partnered with the city on two other affordable housing projects in 2013 and 2016. Those provided about 140 apartment homes for families.

For the Ascent project, Jamboree worked with the city to establish a new zoning code classification for “permanent supportive housing.” According to a staff report, the city believes this is the “next-step housing solution” for homeless people transitioning from a shelter to permanent housing. The city also has a homeless shelter that started accepting new residents last year.

“California is in the midst of a homelessness and housing crisis that can only end if cities get creative when it comes to boosting housing production,” Mayor Connor Traut said.

The total cost to develop Ascent is about $18.7 million, $8.2 million of which was funded by the county’s Section 8 housing vouchers.

Supportive housing is widely considered to be the key to ending chronic homelessness. A 2017 study by UC Irvine, Jamboree Housing and Orange County United Way found that it costs twice as much for someone to live on the street than to house them.

The county committed in 2018 to add 2,700 permanent supportive housing units by June 2025. So far, 306 permanent supportive housing units have been completed toward that goal. Another 535 are under construction and 339 other units are in the process of being funded. The public can track the county’s progress online. There are 6,860 homeless individuals in the county, according to the 2019 Point-In-Time count, which is the most current.

With its more than 30 Orange County properties and 2,800 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.

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

Homeless people surveyed in Orange County during the 2019 Point in Time count.
Homeless people surveyed in Orange County during the 2019 Point in Time count.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

In its infancy, Jamboree’s sole goal was to develop affordable housing in Irvine, where it’s based. 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.

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