Finding ways to overcome the relentless cycle of homelessness is among the most daunting problems in our society. In the Bay Area especially, the issue can seem insurmountable for many residents experiencing housing insecurity -- but likewise for public agencies, nonprofits, private organizations and everyday citizens aching to make any headway toward helping others.
There is an example of hope coming more into view in Livermore, and it could provide more than just a drop in the bucket.
Community leaders joined together exactly one month ago to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking of the so-called "Vineyard 2.0" supportive housing and services development, just blocks away from the heart of downtown.
"This project represents the best of what Livermore and the Tri-Valley can do when we all pull together," Livermore Vice Mayor Gina Bonanno said in her remarks.
"These projects are not easy; it took seven years and a tremendous effort to get to groundbreaking," she added. "We need more projects like this, and we need them faster -- that's easy to say, but if we don't say it we definitely won't do it. So let's celebrate this one and get right to work on the next one."
The ambitious and inspirational project in the residential area at the corner of North Livermore Avenue and Park Street aims to take a multifaceted approach to the cycle of homelessness.
Managed by the Housing Consortium of the East Bay, the development will include 23 apartments (18 studios and five one-bedroom units) of permanent supportive housing for people trying to escape homelessness.
It targets support for the most vulnerable; folks in the very-low or extremely-low income categories, defined as below 30% of the area median income. And thanks to various subsidies, tenants will only pay 30% of their already low adjusted monthly income for rent.
The residential component will include wheelchair-accessible units and be constructed with environmentally friendly building materials, according to the consortium. There will also be a two-bedroom manager's apartment, bringing the overall unit count to 24.
The support system onsite will not stop there.
The project includes space for a new Homeless Resource Center offering a health clinic, showers, laundry machines, mailboxes, case management and mental health support -- all tangible services that can provide real-world help for unhoused people.
The 10,000-square-foot public support space at Vineyard 2.0 will also feature a commercial-scale kitchen and dining room operated by Open Heart Kitchen, the Tri-Valley nonprofit responsible for serving over 2 million meals to those in need last year alone. Just imagine what more they'll be able to accomplish with this new facility.
Talk about a holistic vision to combating the cycle of homelessness.
Of course, these goals won't be altogether new for this site. For years 450 N. Livermore Ave. was home to the Vineyard Christian Fellowship and a homeless support program by local church groups and nonprofits that included hot meals, showers, laundry and other essential services.
Vineyard 2.0 will just go above and beyond, in exemplary fashion.
With shovels now in the ground, my sincere hope is that construction stays on time and on budget.
It is a major price-tag we're talking about already -- approximately $24.5 million overall for the residential and commercial development, which includes a $2 million reserve to subsidize rents for extremely-low-income homeless residents.
Covering those costs are partners including the city of Livermore, Alameda County Measure A1, California No Place Like Home, Livermore Housing Authority, JP Morgan Chase, the cities of Dublin and Pleasanton, and Enterprise Community Investment, Inc. The consortium continues to fundraise for operating dollars for the Homeless Resource Center.
Construction is estimated to be completed in the summer of 2023.
Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column runs regularly on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.