It's the largest homeless housing project of its kind in Fresno. The 70-unit Renaissance at Santa Clara is set to open in November. The concept behind it is “housing first,” which means give the homeless shelter, then deal with the issues that made them homeless, like substance abuse or mental illness.
Behind a row of homeless encampments in downtown Fresno is new hope for a severe problem. An estimated 4,000 people live on the streets of Fresno. The final phases of construction are underway on the Renaissance at Santa Clara.
The apartment complex, made up of units just over 300 square feet, will be permanent housing for homeless, no matter what issues they bring with them.
“This is a housing first development. Housing first is a model where we move people off the street into housing without any initial requirements. We do expect people to continue to use, though we want to be addressing that with them,” said Preston Prince, Executive Director of the Fresno Housing Authority.
Prince says there are rules and people can be evicted for things like breaking their lease or failing to deal with substance abuse or mental illness. He says it's already working at Renaissance at Trinity, a similar but smaller complex that opened a year ago.
“We haven't had someone graduate from the program and move out independently but it's about to happen,” said Prince.
The executive director of Poverello House believes in the concept and is a project partner. In fact, the land Renaissance at Santa Clara is being built on belongs to Poverello House. Future tenants will have access many services Poverello House offers.
“Meals, the medical clinic, clothing distribution, whatever they need,” said Jim Connell of Poverello House.
But a downtown Fresno business owner isn't convinced the "housing first" model will really work.
“I'm really concerned about them, but not just giving them a place to stay. That's a beautiful home, but it's the first time they've ever done something like this,” said Enrique Reade, owner of Reade and Sons Funeral Home.
The $11 million dollar project is being funded primarily by private businesses but state and federal dollars are also being used.