Housing Grant Supports Santa Rosa Seniors

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Kaiser Permanente awards PEP Housing $1 million to help build homes for low-income and chronically homeless seniors.

A $1-million Kaiser Permanente grant is helping fund badly needed senior housing in Santa Rosa, after the 2017 Tubbs Fire destroyed about 3,100 homes in the city.

The grant is part of $8 million in fire recovery assistance Kaiser Permanente committed to the Santa Rosa community. The 21 grants fund physical and mental health initiatives, economic security for low-income populations, and infrastructure.

The grant to PEP Housing will help transform the vacant Valley of the Moon Children’s Home into a 21-unit apartment building with studio and one-bedroom units for low-income seniors age 62 and over, said Ty Camacho, PEP Housing community outreach and funding coordinator.

“Having a name like Kaiser Permanente behind this project really opened the door and piqued the interest of others who donated to the project,” Camacho said. “As soon as we had the backing from Kaiser, we got calls from everywhere. It’s been pretty amazing the amount of support we’ve had since we released that information.”

In addition to Kaiser Permanente, the $4-million project has support from Sonoma County, the Sonoma Valley Rotary Club, and area businesses, Camacho said. It is slated for completion in late 2020.

With more than 95,000 Sonoma County residents over age 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and 9 percent of county residents living in poverty, subsidized senior housing is badly needed.

Aligned with Kaiser Permanente’s Mission

At the new PEP Housing senior homes, some tenants will pay 30 percent of their income to rent and some will pay rent well below market rate, Camacho said. The project will be named after a PEP Housing employee who lost her mother, Linda Tunis, in the fire.

“We are very proud supporters of PEP Housing’s Linda Tunis project as it closely aligns with our mission to help the most vulnerable populations affected by the fires,” said Alena Wall, Community Benefit manager at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa.

Wall lauded PEP Housing’s choice to rehab an existing building because it will cost approximately one-third the price of a new building and be finished much sooner.

Camacho said the first tenants will be referred to the newly built homes from city and county programs aiding fire victims and from a list of seniors who lost their homes when the Journey’s End mobile home park burned down.

Although the home will function as a transitional stop for low-income and chronically homeless seniors who may later find permanent housing, they can stay as long as they want, Camacho said. Residents will have access to a coordinator who can help them navigate senior services.

The 1- and 2-bedroom units will have minimal kitchen amenities, but a larger communal kitchen will serve as a community building space.

“One great thing about this facility is that a shared kitchen will be a place where these people can connect in order to rebuild a sense of community after losing their homes to the fire,” Camacho said.

The homes will have a dog run and gardens with initial labor provided by the Sonoma Valley Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of the Valley of the Moon.

Wall added that Kaiser Permanente is happy to help the future residents on the road to recovering their lives after the fires.

“Losing everything you have takes a greater toll than we can imagine,” Wall said. “Hopefully our support will give them the tools they need to rebuild and deal with the emotional damage.”

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