SAN FRANCISCO—If Edward Erhardt had a little money, he would often buy a can of bug killer so he could spray the sidewalk or wherever he would be sleeping later that night.

These days he no longer has to worry about ants and cockroaches.  Known as “Popeye” for his resemblance to the spinach-eating sailor, he recently moved into 149 Mason Street, a new 56-unit development for formerly homeless individuals.

 “It’s a second chance on life,” said Erhardt, who had been living at a shelter since last August.

Glide Economic Development Corp. and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. (TNDC) held a grand opening for the eight-story building at the edge of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood at the end of March.

The day was not about celebrating bricks and mortar, said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“It’s celebrating the fact that people don’t have to worry about where they are going to cook their meals,” he said. Or, worry about where they would go at night or sharing a bathroom with strangers.

Newsom said the development proves that the problem of homelessness can be solved. “Shelters solve sleep, housing solves homelessness,” he said.

Newsom recently announced that 1,679 new units of permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless have been developed within the last five years, pushing the city past the halfway mark of 3,000 units in 10 years as called for in the city’s Plan to End Homelessness.

Changing lives

In addition to the furnished apartments, 149 Mason offers a host of services for residents. Glide Health Services will launch its first satellite clinic to provide on-site medical services.

The units are targeted to persons with incomes below $9,000 per year, all of them homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, said city officials.

“When you have a home like this, you also change your life,” said the Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide.

Don Falk, TNDC’s executive director, added that the building is also an important step for establishing a stronger community in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

The studio apartments are subsidized by the city’s Local Operating Subsidy Program, which provides operating subsidies to developments that make permanent housing and supportive services available to qualified residents. Rents for the new units are based on income and will range from 20 percent to 40 percent of the area median income or approximately $300 to $700 a month.

The development is designed by HKIT Architects.

The $29.7 million project was financed by several different sources, including low-income housing tax credit equity provided by AEGON USA.  Other supporters include the Mayor’s Office of Housing, city and county of San Francisco, California Department of Housing and Community Development, Local Initiatives Support Corp., Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and Silicon Valley Bank.