New apartments in Pomona provide homes – and hope – for formerly homeless – Daily Bulletin

Jamboree Housing Corporation’s newest Villa Esperanza apartments are seen on Thursday, September 14, 2023 in Pomona. (Photo by Anjali Sharif Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

Pomona has taken another step toward providing more affordable housing during California’s housing crisis with its newest addition, Villa Esperanza.

The apartment building, which includes 57 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, opened and cut the ribbon on Thursday, September 14. It was attended by community leaders and current and future residents.

Villa Esperanza, which has been under development for more than three years, will serve veterans, low-income residents and those who were previously homeless. The 1.43-acre project fulfills Pomona’s vision of providing energy-efficient housing that also serves the community.

Residents will pay between 20 and 60 percent of the area median income for rent and will have access in the building to mental health services provided by Tri-City Mental Health. The complex also has an after-school program.

Other amenities include laundry facilities, a playground, a community garden, and a dog park for residents.

Of the 57 apartments, 10 are designated for homeless families and eight for formerly homeless veterans.

Villa Esperanza was built by the nonprofit housing developer Jamboree Housing Corporation and the Pomona Housing Authority, which worked with state agencies to finance the project. A $1.3 million construction loan came from the San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Fund, and the City of Pomona provided $3.4 million to purchase the land and eight Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Vouchers. Wells Fargo contributed $14.6 million in construction financing and $13.1 million in tax credit equity.

The building features a contemporary exterior design in keeping with the design of Pomona’s Mission District and downtown. Energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures can be found in the apartments. Each apartment has its own outdoor balcony with storage space.

Currently, 66% of the units are occupied, but some residents are starting to move in. Helena Whitney, her daughter, and Johanna Gonzalez and her children are two families who are beginning to settle down.

Whitney, who has struggled with mental health issues and housing insecurity over the past few years, saw Villa Esperanza as a much-needed lifeline for her and her daughter.

“It’s beyond magical,” Whitney said. “It really is. It’s one of the greatest blessings I think I’ve ever received, and it was hard for me to receive because it was so surreal. That I’m finally here, I’m finally home.”

Whitney said the struggle to find stable housing, along with seeking mental health treatment, as a single mother, was too much for her to bear.

“I’m constantly jumping from house to house to house. It’s very draining on the mind, body and spirit,” Whitney said. “And when things like this are put out in the world, it makes me feel like I have hope because there really was a life or death situation for me.” “.

“It made me feel more at peace, and I felt safer,” Whitney said. “I feel like people actually care, which is very rare these days.”

“I think going from being weak to being strong was a transformative moment for me,” Whitney said. “I have gained a lot of courage, resilience and patience, and I am proud of that.”

Gonzalez, who spoke at the event, is no stranger to hard times and housing insecurity. She said she and her children lost their previous housing last year and stayed in different hotels with housing vouchers. They moved into her sister’s apartment for a while.

Gonzalez said she drove by Villa Esperanza at least three times a week during its construction while waiting in anticipation to get the keys to her new home.

“The other thing about this apartment is that we think it’s very luxurious, even too luxurious for us,” Gonzalez said. “So we think it’s just too much for us with all this new technology. It’s a lot more than we had.”

She is excited to make memories with her children and enjoy feeling safe.

“It’s like a new beginning for us,” Gonzalez said. “A new beginning of hope, our purpose, and a better life for us. Our lives go up. I can not believe that.

Gonzalez’s 16-year-old son, Isaac Gonzalez, also spoke and said he felt happy.

“After last year, it didn’t feel very good, especially at school,” he said. “It was difficult to go to school because we had to travel from Azusa all the way to Pomona.”

“My mom is the reason I want to keep moving forward because she keeps pushing me to do better,” Isaac Gonzalez said.

Natalie Isidra, 8, Johanna Gonzalez’s daughter, said she is eager to make memories.

“I’m so excited because these will be my last memories when I die,” said Natalie, whose mother said with a laugh that Natalie has a long way to go before then.

Recent county homeless statistics by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority show a 9% rise in homelessness in Los Angeles County, with more than 75,000 people homeless. An increase in the number of protected and unprotected veterans has also been reported.

Villa Esperanza is located at 508 W. Mission Blvd.

For information, click here.

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