San Francisco is home to more than 1.500 homeless veterans. And with wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan, that number is on the rise.
Despite this, there are few developments specifically tailored to help down-and-out veterans get back on their feet. At 150 Otis St., the Chinatown Community Development Center and veterans group Swords to Plowshares built the first new housing for homeless vets in the city since 2001.
“After nearly 40 years working with homeless and at-risk veterans in San Francisco, I know what it takes to break the cycle of homelessness,” said Michael Blecker, the executive director of Swords to Plowshares. “For Vietnam-era veterans who have suffered for decades, permanent supportive housing is the solution that will save their lives.”
The project does more than help veterans – it revitalized a nine-story buiilding that had been vacant for 20 years. The project combined 9 percent low·lncome housing tax credits, historic tax credits and city loans through the Mayor’s Office of Housing. Other funds came from the San Francisco Housing Authority, Human Services Agency, Redevelopment Agency, California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, California Housing Finance Agency, a grant from the Home Depot Foundation, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA. Wells Fargo Bank was the construction lender and investor.
The residents of Veterans Commons are single homeless veterans who are disabled by mental illness, chronic substance abuse, HIV, post traumatic stress disorder and other severe mental health disorders. On-slte supportive services are provided by Swords to Plowshares and the VA.
“The completion of Veterans Commons is a most happy and joyful occasion and a new beginning for veterans,” said Reverend Norman Fong, Chinatown CDC’s executive director.
Location: 150 Otis St., San Francisco.
Size: 75 units.
Cost: $30 million.
Developer: Chinatown Community Development Center and Swords to Plowshares.
Contractor: Cahill Contractors.
Architect: Gelfand Partners.
Engineer: Tennebaum-Manheim Engineers.
Law firm: Nixon Peabody.
by J.K. Dineen