Stan Parry, Board President, Welcomes Jan Stokley as New ED
To all the friends of Housing Choices Coalition, please join me in welcoming our new Executive Director, Jan Stokley. We are really pleased to have Jan pilot HCC, bringing us the leadership qualities and experience of an extraordinary thirty-year career in affordable housing, child care and community development at the most senior levels. Jan has been a clinical Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, as well as the Executive Director of two major Bay Area nonprofit organizations. A parent of an adult child with disabilities, Jan’s work is enriched by a personal understanding of the special issues and challenges faced by families with children with developmental disabilities.
Housing Choices was created in 1995 by parents and professionals to address the acute need for suitable housing for people with developmental disabilities. Partnering with leading non-profit affordable housing developers, HCC has created 190 new living quarters for individuals and families with developmental disabilities. We have assisted more than 800 people in finding and maintaining suitable, safe, and affordable housing in communities of their choice. Our professional staff works tirelessly to create new housing and provides ongoing support to HCC tenants in a variety of ways. We work with community agencies to locate affordable rental properties and also assist people in obtaining Federal housing vouchers that allow them to live in apartments and homes at prices they can afford. This work truly changes lives.
In addition to welcoming Jan, we are saying good-by to Jeff Roth, Housing Coordination Manager for all three of our counties. Initially in Santa Cruz County, and then regionally, Jeff has provided the leadership and expertise necessary to meet the wide-ranging needs of our clients. We will miss Jeff and wish him the very best in the next stage of a career dedicated to helping people.
As a member of the Board of Directors for the past 14 years, I have been proud to be involved as we have grown and prospered and been transformed into a thoroughly professional and effective organization that has never lost sight of the needs of the people we serve. I am eagerly looking forward to the next phase of our journey.
Grass Roots Day and the State Budget
On April 18, 2012, ten Housing Choices Coalition clients joined other clients served by the San Andreas Regional Center and regional centers across the State of California to make their voices heard in Sacramento. Their message was loud and clear. Past cuts in funding for services for people with developmental disabilities had dramatically reduced community resources essential for independent and supported living. Threatened cuts in 2012-2013 would cripple the state’s ability to fulfill the promise of California’s 1977 Lanterman Act that Californians with developmental disabilities have a civil right to live in the community and the right guaranteed all Americans by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1999 Olmstead decision that public agencies must provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities.
In preparing to meet with state legislators, HCC residents reviewed many of the budget talking points provided by the San Andreas Regional Center. HCC clients who were unable to make the trip to Sacramento wrote letters and provided photos, which the ten HCC residents were happy to share with legislators in person.
In their meetings with individual legislators, HCC residents were able to bring to life the personal impact of the 4.25 percent budget cuts imposed on the Regional Center system in the past several years. Their personal stories struck a chord with legislators. Jane Malkofsky, who lives at a designated HCC apartment in Mountain View said, “It was a great experience because I was able to meet State Senators and Assembly Members who believed in the same causes that I believe in as far as not cutting the disability programs.”
Many of the residents who participated in Grass Roots Day reported that they had never before been outside of San Jose or the County of Santa Clara; all the residents enjoyed advocating on the state level and are eager and ready for round two. Now that the doors have been open to HCC residents to have their voices heard in Sacramento and they see that people are listening and are interested in what they have to say, the question we’re hearing is “When is the next trip back to the Capitol with Housing Choices?”
With the passage on June 15 of a state budget that restored 3% of the prior 4.25% cut to the Regional Center system, the focus of HCC’s grassroots advocacy is shifting from Sacramento legislators to all of our friends and neighbors. A November ballot initiative will call on California voters to approve a tax increase to address a structural deficit of $16 billion in public education and human services. If the November ballot initiative fails to pass, the Governor has promised that drastic budget cuts will be automatically “triggered” on January 1, 2013. The system of support for people with developmental disabilities will once again face devastating losses of community capacity for independent and supported living.
Eden Housing Breaks Ground in Partnership with Housing Choices Coalition
On May 21, 2012, Eden Housing, a nonprofit housing developer with whom Housing Choices Coalition has successfully partnered in the past, broke ground on a 20 unit apartment building, which will offer 19 one and two bedroom apartments for rent to people with developmental disabilities.
Located near the intersection of Ford and Monterey Roads in San Jose, Eden Housing’s new project packages HUD Section 811 funding with financing provided by the City of San Jose, the Sobrato Family Foundation, Union Bank, and the Housing Trust. It is the first phase of a larger project, which will include an additional 75 units of affordable family housing, expected to start construction in 2013.
Rents at the 19 one and two bedroom apartments set aside for Housing Choices Coalition clients are assessed at 30% of the household’s monthly income and are expected to range between $350 and $540 per month when construction is completed in the Summer of 2013.
This model of housing inclusion—using HUD Section 811 financing to construct very affordable units designated for people with developmental disabilities and then surrounding those units with affordable family housing financed with other sources—has proven to be a successful model of community building for Housing Choices residents.
Two Housing Choices residents of Edenvale Housing, the 2007 template for Eden Housing’s Ford and Monterey project, spoke at the May 21 groundbreaking on the difference it had made for them to live in affordable rental housing integrated with the larger community. Fourteen Edenvale apartments are designated for Housing Choices clients and are supported by HCC’s Resident Coordination services. According to Jarhari Smith-Pinheiro, the Housing Choices Resident Coordinator who supports the Edenvale residents, “Edenvale is one of our strongest communities. We have very low turnover at Edenvale because everyone takes care of each other in a very special way. I’m excited to see the Ford and Monterey apartments open in 2013 based on this successful model.”
Bernini Fund Aids Bambini
Christopher, age two, is one of hundreds of people with developmental disabilities who are affected by the high cost of housing in Santa Cruz County. The devastating economic recession that began in 2008 has made the challenge even greater for families like Christopher’s. When Christopher’s Mom and Dad became unemployed and were reduced to living on the income from a single part-time job, the family found themselves in June 2011 in a homeless shelter.
But the shelter could house the family only until August 1, 2011. As it happens, Christopher has a developmental disability and is served by the San Andreas Regional Center who referred the family to Housing Choices Coalition’s Santa Cruz County Housing Coordinator, Jenny Xilonzochilt, for help in finding affordable housing. Up against the family’s August 1 deadline for leaving the homeless shelter, Jenny helped the family apply for and get on waiting lists of affordable housing apartment complexes , and the family also completed Section 8 voucher application paperwork.
Christopher’s Mom, with two-year-old Christopher and three-year-old sister Lily, moved out of the shelter by the August 1 deadline into a studio apartment which cost $445 per month—the only housing they could find within financial reach. Because of occupancy limits for the studio apartment, Christopher’s Dad was unable to live there. He remained homeless and was limited to visiting his wife and children in the studio apartment.
Jenny counseled the family to save as much as they could for a security deposit, while she worked with them to find a larger apartment within their financial means. Finally, in November 2011, with help from Jenny, the family was offered a three bedroom apartment at Pacifica Apartments for $1,200/month.
But the upfront cost of the security deposit and first month’s rent was too much for the family, and they faced the prospect of losing their chance to be re-united. Fortunately, Jenny had access to a resource to help with this one-time need—the Bernini Fund created in 2002 by Housing Choices Coalition to help individuals with developmental disabilities deal with the high cost of the security deposit and first month’s rent. Finally, in December 2011, with financial assistance from the Bernini Fund, Christopher’s Dad was re-united with Christopher, Lily, and Mom in their new three bedroom apartment.
Once in their new apartment, the family struggled to pay the $1,200 monthly rent without Section 8 assistance. But the story ends well. In May 2012, a year after the family found themselves living in the shelter, they were
finally awarded a Section 8 voucher, and now pay 30% of their household income towards the rent. According to Jenny, “The paperwork, the waiting lists, the background checks, the inspections, the interviews, the deadlines—all of this can be overwhelming for people with developmental disabilities and the family members who are helping them, particularly if they are in the middle of a crisis. But Christopher’s Mom and Dad never gave up in their quest to re-unite and stabilize their family.” And Jenny never gave up either.
Since Housing Choices created the Bernini Fund in 2002, we have provided more than $90,000 in security deposit assistance to more than 90 clients. But the current Bernini Fund balance is below $6,000, and we have a number of pending applications for security deposit assistance. To donate to Housing Choices Coalition, visit our web site, www.housingchoices.com, and donate online or contact Jan Stokley, Executive Director, tel. (408)284-0993 to learn more.