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Newport greenlights up to $3 million for permanent supportive housing for homeless

The words “Home of the FREE because of the BRAVE” are inscribed into a stairway at The Cove Apartmen
The Cove apartments in Newport Beach opened in 2018 to provide permanent affordable and supportive housing for homeless veterans and low-income senior citizens. Newport’s next permanent supportive housing complex also could help seniors stay off the streets.
(File Photo)

Newport Beach is willing to spend $3 million on apartments to help homeless people get, and stay, on their feet.

The City Council gave staff its support Tuesday night to seek a private development partner for the permanent supportive housing project, which could feature up to 50 units, with social services.

The location is yet to be determined.

Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs said most projects of that type require a commitment by local governments, often in the form of land. The city doesn’t have a parcel to give, so Newport offered funding.

The council’s 6-0 vote, with member Diane Dixon absent, didn’t approve any specific project or release funds. However, the city’s financial commitment will enhance the chances of developing a successful project because it shows local support, staff said.

The city could draw up to $3 million from funds set aside for affordable housing and a temporary shelter. The selected developer would be responsible for the balance of the project.

Permanent supportive housing follows the “housing first” model, which turns on the philosophy that it’s difficult for people with mental health and addiction issues to control those problems if they’re living on the street. It is not a homeless shelter, but rather an apartment complex that combines affordable housing with onsite, voluntary services to help tenants build independent living skills and connect with social and health support.

One example of such public-private permanent supportive housing in Newport Beach is the Cove, a 12-unit complex on the city’s west side that is geared toward formerly homeless military veterans and low-income senior citizens. Mercy House, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit, and Community Development Partners, a Newport Beach-based affordable-housing developer, partnered on the complex with the city, which gave a $1.97-million grant to help acquire and rehabilitate the building.

Mayor Pro Tem Brad Avery said homeless people want more than just shelter — they want homes of their own.

“We have an obligation — and every city does — to find a way to provide that,” said Avery, a member of the city’s homelessness task force.

The task force, a committee of the City Council, suggested permanent supportive housing as a long-term way to significantly alleviate local homelessness.

“I don’t know how any of us can live in a town like this and enjoy the fruits of such a great city without getting behind something like this for people who are less fortunate,” Avery said.

The upcoming permanent supportive housing will primarily serve seniors, with a secondary focus on veterans and families. Jacobs said a significant portion of Newport’s homeless population is older than 55.

Meanwhile, Newport’s move to build a temporary homeless shelter has stalled after the city received no bids from potential operators to run a shelter with up to 40 beds, possibly in modular trailers in a corner of the municipal public works yard on Superior Avenue.

The city has said it will continue to look for options for a temporary shelter, including a regional approach with neighboring governments.

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