SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Dealing with the issues of housing affordability and homelessness has been the focus of Gov. Gavin Newsom since he took office. 

What You Need To Know

  • Project Homekey allocates funds for hotels, motels to be converted to affordable housing

  • Vista Nueva, a converted hotel, opened up for families struggling with homelessness in a Sacramento suburb

  • Once construction is complete, over 200 people will live at the apartment 

  • Jamboree Housing Corporation has received funds to convert five properties in Southern and Northern California

While the population of homeless individuals has grown over the last few years, California has rolled out successful programs to get people off the street.

One of those programs is Project Homekey, which started during the pandemic. Project Homekey provides funds to purchase buildings such as hotels, motels and apartment buildings and converts them into long-term housing for people experiencing homelessness.

The Orange County-based nonprofit, Jamboree Housing Corporation, received $81.3 million in Homekey grants to convert five hotels and motels in Sacramento, Santa Clara and Orange County. 

“The program is thriving; thousands of units are either operational or under construction. And there’s another funding cycle because this is such an important program that is addressing homelessness,” said Katherine McFadden, the senior director of Jamboree Northern California.

Vista Nueva, formerly the Staybridge Suites, recently opened up in Natomas, a suburb north of Sacramento, to families who were experiencing homelessness or were at risk of becoming homeless. 

When construction is complete, there will be 116 units available, 10 of which will be used as interim housing for the first three years. This will help the most at-risk individuals have access to community services.

Each unit at Vista Nueva comes fully furnished and has a kitchenette. McFadden says they are planning to add services such as an after-school program and adult education classes.

The housing complex will have amenities such as a new playground, 24/7 security, a community kitchen, and a swimming pool.

This is Jamboree’s second hotel conversion. The first was Hotel Esperanza in Anaheim. The nonprofit has also done other joint ventures in partnership with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. Together, the partnership has created 356 units of affordable housing.

The selection process for residents is done through referral. Vista Nueva uses coordinated entry, the referrals come from connected agencies that identify the most-at-risk individuals who need affordable housing.

Currently, there are 20 families living in Vista Nueva. While the space is still under construction, McFadden says the plan was to get people housed as soon as possible so they received approval to do a phased opening.

“It was really important that these units are beautiful, they were ready, and we’re doing other minor improvements…but we wanted to get folks housed over the next few months so eventually this building will be full of families with children,” McFadden said.

Janette Diaz, a 31-year-old mother, is one of the first residents of Vista Nueva. The housing complex has helped keep her daughter safe and no longer worrying about where to sleep at night.

“Even being able to put my key fob on the door is a relief — being able to cook my daughter a nice, warm meal is a relief — knowing that she has a comfortable bed, a safe neighborhood,” Diaz said. 

Diaz said when she was her daughter’s age her mother began sex trafficking her. Now that she’s a mom, her main goal is to provide a safe, stable environment for her daughter.

“I always wanted to be the best mom and show her, ‘we keep fighting. We don’t give up,” Diaz said.

Now with a stable living condition, Diaz says she can now focus on helping other victims of sex trafficking.

“I can fully get [myself] together; I can go to school. I really want to become an advocate for sex trafficking survivors and this is putting me in a situation where I can not only help myself but also help women that don’t feel like they’re safe or feel like they’re nothing,” Diaz said.

Providing housing for families like Diaz’s is what makes McFadden committed to her job. It is also an example of how programs like Project Homekey are working to solve the homelessness crisis in the state.

“My hope is that the state leaders, the governor, continue to provide the necessary funding so Jamboree can continue to construct, to renovate, to convert hotels, to bring more housing online. I think the hope is seen here, the hope is on the faces of our residents, on the faces of children,” McFadden said.

McFadden said construction at Vista Nueva will be done by this upcoming spring. Once complete, over 200 people will live at the apartment.

The third and final round of Homekey funds will also be distributed before April 2023.

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