A new apartment building opened in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, offering a community garden, library, running track, art room and exercise facilities to tenants.
Though it may sound like standard trappings for the city's elite, the complex houses exclusively homeless residents.
Star Apartments is the newest facility in L.A.'s Skid Row focused on combating the downtown area's homelessness crisis, The Los Angeles Times reported. The 102-unit complex will also be home to L.A. County's Department of Health Services' Housing for Health division, which is focused on improving the health of the region's homeless population through various services. The division hopes to house 10,000 people over the next decade through its services.
“The community that lives here should have a similar environment to anybody that could afford something more expensive,” Michael Maltzan, who designed the $40 million-project, told the L.A. Times.
The building was developed and financed by the Skid Row Housing Trust, an organization that connects people facing poverty, poor health, disabilities, mental illness and addiction to permanent housing opportunities. The Trust states on its site that Star Apartments is using low-income housing tax credit equity from the National Equity Fund and investor Bank of America. The complex will also save money by requiring any resident with an income to pay 30 percent of it toward rent, Los Angeles Downtown News noted.
Star Apartments and the services it provides residents follows the Housing First approach to fighting homelessness — a proven strategy, endorsed by the Obama administration, that prioritizes housing those without stable shelter before providing other services. It's an approach that gets people off the street quickly — and actually saves taxpayers money. A 2014 study by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, for example, found that each homeless person cost taxpayer's roughly $31,000 a year due to expenses like jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Providing chronically homeless people with housing and case managers to supervise them, on the other hand, would only cost about $10,000 a year.
According to Los Angeles Downtown News, the facility, which has 15,000 square feet of community space, will be at capacity in November.
Los Angeles has recently stepped up its fight against homelessness. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in July that he accepted Michelle Obama's challenge to rid the city of veteran homelessness by 2016. A new city-county initiative also aims to increase mental health services and outreach programs for those living on skid row, the L.A. Times reported in August.
H/T Think Progress