During that service, they discovered a gap in services to provide transitional housing for working people who could not save enough money to get an apartment because of the cash required to move in (rent for first and last month plus security deposit). That launched a partnership with HomeAid Northern California (the homebuilders charity) that resulted in six tiny homes on the Hayward campus. Those opened just before the pandemic lockdown and simultaneous they launched Firm Foundation Community Housing.
Medcalf worked for both the church and the foundation, which provides turn-key housing for churches, individuals or others with empty lots. Once the tiny homes project was announced, they received many calls from churches who were interested in doing what they had done. After 18 months, Medcalf transitioned into the foundation full-time as interest and opportunities grew.
They’re working in four Bay Area counties and helped the interested organizations focus on what type of clientele they want to serve and then find the right non-profit to operate the village once it’s built. They have about 170 units in the pipeline and have fine-tuned their offerings. The tiny homes at the Hayward church were 160 square feet; the standard design now is 264 square feet with bathrooms with showers, kitchen sinks, mini refrigerators, microwaves and cooktops.
What’s impressive is that they generally can deliver units in 2-3 years instead of the five or more years that it typically takes for an affordable housing project. And do it for 25% of the cost. Come Jan. 1, the foundation will have additional leverage because of the passage of SB 4, that clears the use of church land for affordable housing. Medcalf’s foundation co-founder, Taryn Sandulyak, served on the advisory group that helped Sen . Scott Wiener write the bill.
The projects all qualify for housing subsidies so that becomes the operating fund for the agency running the site to provide its services.
Talk to Medcalf about housing for the homeless and he pulls no punches. An estimated 150,000 people are homeless in California, yet only 3,000 permanent homes were built in the last year The number is about 35,000 in the Bay Area and for every homeless person who is housed, in Alameda County two additional residents lose their housing.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature have poured millions of new dollars into homeless programs, Medcalf believes it’s way short of what’s necessary.
“We literally, as a community, are just leaving people to die on the streets. We could build housing if we choose,” he said. “We have underfunded services for the homeless.”
Medcalf is out of the day-to-day running of a church, but he still preaches and teaches on some Sundays. He also sees working on housing as an extension of his pastoral call.
Here in the valley, they worked with Goodness Village on the Crosswinds Church site in Livermore for the final six months of its construction period and are working on the 16-unit village at Asbury United Methodist Church on East Avenue. He said they were getting close to submitting the application to the city.