Long Beach, Calif. – As many as one-third of all homeless persons are military veterans, according to the nonprofit advocacy group U.S. VETS. With the opening of Cabrillo Plaza Apartments last year, though, 200 formerly homeless vets are being offered a warm home, hot meals, and lots of services so that they can turn their lives around.
Cabrillo Plaza is the latest component of the 26-acre Villages at Cabrillo community, but it’s the first to offer vets long-term housing. U.S. VETS partners with eight organizations to offer a broad array of services and amenities at the Villages: counseling, support groups, life-skills training, recreation facilities, special-needs assistance, meal availability, health-care facilitation, job training and job placement services.
This combination of housing and services aims to help these vets get on their feet again. The best outcome might be that they’d become successful enough to be income-ineligible for Cabrillo Plaza.
The attractive four-story Cabrillo Plaza was developed by Century Villages at Cabrillo, an affiliate of nonprofit Century Housing Corp. All 200 single-room occupancy units are handicapped-accessible. While 128 units are self- contained efficiencies, 72 are grouped in suites around common living rooms and kitchens.
Bill Wallace, clinical director for U.S. VETS, said that the suite-style design provides more opportunities for the vets to socialize. One suite in particular has become a very close-knit group already, according to Wallace. “They cook together, they’ve had good times,” he said.
U.S. VETS is an innovative public/private partnership created in 1993 to fill gaps in the continuum of care for homeless veterans. It operates a total of 527 beds at Cabrillo Plaza and the transitional veterans housing at the Villages, and it coordinates services for all of these veterans.
The $15.4 million development was funded in part with $11.9 million in 9% tax credit equity provided by John Hancock Equity Realty Advisors, according to project manager Aaron Wooler. Century declined to provide further financing details.
Completed last June, the new apartments are now 98% leased. Every unit in the project is income-restricted: 20 units are available to residents earning no more than 60% of the area median income (AMI), 40 units to those at 50% of AMI or less, 60 units to those at 40% of AMI or less, and 80 units to those at 30% of AMI or less, according to Wallace. Rent varies by income and ranges from $340 a month for individuals who earn up to 30% of AMI, or $13,770 a year, to $650 a month for people who earn up to $27,540.
Although most of the veterans at the Villages are men, about 15% to 20% of them are women, according to Wallace. U.S. VETS has one of the largest programs in the country designed specifically to help female veterans.
Most of the veterans living here served during the Vietnam era, according to Wallace, and about 15% to 20% saw combat. But that will change. “We definitely feel that at our site in the next couple years, we’re going to start seeing more and more Iraqi and Afghani vets who are going to lapse into homelessness or who are going to need our services,” Wallace said.
Cabrillo Plaza Apartments
Developer: Century Villages at Cabrillo, an affiliate of Century Housing Corp.
Number of units: 200 SROs
Number of affordable units: 200
Unique feature: It provides permanent housing for veterans.
Key sources of financing
Equity for 9% low-income housing tax credits provided by John Hancock Equity Realty Advisors: $11.9 million
(The developer declined to provide other funding sources.)
Total development cost: $15.4 million