Apartment project to house homeless

Long-term complex in Redmond will allow residents to deal with mental health issues, get back on their feet

David Holley / The Bulletin /

Published Oct 30, 2009 at 05:00AM

Housing Works plans to begin construction in December on an $875,000, six-unit apartment complex in Redmond that will provide permanent housing for homeless adults with mental illness.

The new building, called Barbara's Place, is modeled after other Housing Works apartment communities, such as Prairie House in Prineville, by functioning as a long-term housing complex where residents can deal with their mental health issues and get back on their feet.

By putting homeless individuals in permanent housing, rather than shelters or transitional housing, it helps them stabilize in a way that otherwise might be impossible, said Housing Works Executive Director Cyndy Cook.

“If there isn't a place for them outside of the shelters, they wind up being in the shelters for a long time,” Cook said. “It's so amazing to see people really transform when they get into quality housing.”

As Central Oregon's housing authority, Housing Works landed a $690,000 grant in late September from Oregon Housing and Community Services, allowing it to move forward with the complex. Another $85,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Human Services' Addictions and Mental Health Division, plus money from Housing Works' savings, will cover the rest of the development costs.

The plan is to have residents pay about $100 per month for their apartments — only a fraction of the actual cost — plus their electric bills. The rest of the rent will be subsidized by another $156,000 grant from Oregon Housing and Community Services. That grant, which will also cover other costs associated with the apartments, is meant to last four years.

When that money runs out, Barbara's Place will likely use Section 8 housing vouchers to help pay the residents' rent, said Keith Wooden, director of development and asset management at Housing Works.

Wooden said residents could pay their portion of the rent through a bevy of grants available to help stabilize people in this situation. Also, many homeless people work, but they earn too little to pay full rent, Wooden added.

“It's got to be affordable for this population,” he said.

Deschutes County Mental Health will refer potential residents to Housing Works when the building nears completion sometime next year.

The city of Redmond is currently reviewing site plans. Wooden said Housing Works hopes to put the project out to bid in November and hire a contractor by mid-December.

Located in southwest Redmond on Timber Avenue, the 5,400-square-foot complex has a spacious, modern design. It was limited to six units because larger buildings become difficult to manage, resulting in less care for residents, Cook said.

Housing Works has owned the 3 acres of land, part of which Barbara's Place will be built on, since 1993. Before it moved to downtown Redmond, Housing Works had its administrative building on the site.

Deschutes County Health Services staff will work at the apartment, acting as case managers for the residents and providing them with access to social services, Cook said.

“Creating safe, affordable housing options for people with mental illness is so important to their recovery,” Scott Johnson, director at Deschutes County Health Services, said in a news release.

Housing Works, which provides housing assistance to more than 1,600 households in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties, has two other apartment complexes that work with residents who are mentally ill, but Barbara's Place will be the first with an additional focus on homeless individuals. Cook said there are few long-term housing resources for the homeless in Central Oregon.

“This is really an opportunity for people to access decent housing,” she said.