Housing the homeless is a sticky wicket in San Diego. It's even more daunting when those homeless are senior citizens with health issues. A proposed housing project in Grantville aims to help seniors with chronic health conditions who have either experienced homelessness or are at risk of becoming so. The project proposes approximately 75 residential units with wraparound medical services for very low-income seniors.
The proposed project is located at the corner of Mission Gorge Road and Glacier Avenue, presently the site of the Good Guys car lot.
Wakeland Housing and Development is partnering with St. Paul's All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, also known as PACE, on this project. This is a Medicare- and Medicaid-funded program that helps seniors with their health care needs in the community versus in a nursing home.
Elaine Camuso from Wakeland said it's too early for project renderings, but did say a facility they opened in Talmadge earlier this year is similar to the proposed Grantville project — which also serves seniors who have either been homeless or are at risk of being homeless.
Wakeland and St. Paul’s partnered on the Talmadage Gateway facility, too. It's located on Euclid Avenue at El Cajon Boulevard, where once a used-car lot sat before being transformed into a 1920s bungalow-style sanctuary for at-risk seniors. The building has studio apartments, lounges, a large terrace for socializing and exercise, and retail space.
Camuso said the project was nominated for an Orchid award this year. Orchids and Onions are given to best (Orchids) and worst (Onions) local architecture and design every year. Ultimately, they lost to the Imperial Beach Library.
Camuso said Wakeland is a nonprofit founded in 1998 with the goal of creating affordable housing, including for low-income working families, seniors, and people with special needs. She said they have built more than 6700 units of affordable rental housing at 44 properties throughout California, with 21 of those properties located in San Diego.
Camuso said since it's the early stages of planning for this new development. "It would become a real project once Wakeland acquires the site from the current owners, lines up the funding and gets further feedback from the community." She said right now, Wakeland is in a purchase and sale agreement with the current owners and conducting due diligence.
She said the development will include an approximately 6700-square-foot alternative-care facility to be operated by St. Paul’s PACE. "The initial four-story design will place the affordable homes on floors two to four above the ground floor alternative-care facility and provide onsite garage parking for both residents and clinic staff/visitors."
St. Paul’s will be the primary service provider for residents and the operator of the alternative-care facility while Wakeland will oversee all aspects of the housing development and operation.
What is the selection process for who gets in to this facility? "The qualifications process and requirements will be fully determined at a later stage in the development process. It’s likely that, at a minimum, residents will have to be low-income-verified, homeless or at risk of homelessness, and meet the requirements of the St. Paul’s PACE program [seniors with ongoing medical needs]."
"If everything works out, we’d acquire the property in [the] first few months of next year, assemble financing and conduct further community outreach through the end of 2018, and start construction in early 2019 with completion in late 2020."
Wakeland presented an informational presentation at the local planning group in November. Nothing requiring a vote, but just to let the community be aware of the proposed project. No major issues were raised by the community at that time.
Leonard has a business across the street from the proposed project on Glacier Avenue. He said while he hadn't heard about the proposed project, "If it's done right, I don't have a problem with it."
The location is in a commercial area. Directly across the street from the proposed project on Mission Gorge is the County Health and Human Services Agency and nearby on both sides of Mission Gorge Road are fast-food restaurants and other businesses.
At the proposed project site on Glacier, it's all businesses, including a car wash, contractors, a motorcycle-repair shop, a heating and air-conditioning business, an auto repair shop, a food-and-beverage wholesaler, and a tow yard.
A report put out by the California Housing Partnership in May pointed to the rental crisis in the county. It states that renters need to make $6467 a month to afford the median rent of $1940. Since 2000, median rent has increased by 36 percent while median income for renters has increased by only 4 percent. Add to that, state and federal funding cuts that led to a 69 percent reduction in affordable housing since 2008 — and it's no wonder things seem a bit bleak for senior renters.
A 2014 Harvard study funded by AARP stated a concern about the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown making households aged 50-64 less prepared for retirement than previous generations, especially among renters.
The study suggests that typical senior homeowners have enough wealth to cover 57 months of nursing home costs while median renters can't afford even one month.