When most of us think of helping the homeless, images of homeless shelters and food kitchens probably come to mind, not community gardens and running tracks. But Los Angeles thought the latter would be beneficial, so that’s what they developed.
The City of Angels and the Skid Row downtown area, in particular, has a chronic homeless problem. And since other policies and endeavors haven’t worked, the city decided to try something different. So they built the Star Apartment complex.
Not only does the 15,000-square-foot apartment complex offer 102 units, but it also boasts a community garden, library, running track, art room and exercise facility. The purpose of the apartments is to instill a sense of normalcy for the residents — all of whom were previously homeless.
“The community that lives here should have a similar environment to anybody that could afford something more expensive,” Star Apartments designer Michael Maltzan tells the L.A. Times.
Sharing the building is L.A. County’s Department of Health Services Housing for Health Division. Using a variety of services, the Department works to improve the lives and health of the county’s homeless. Over the next 10 years, the Department’s goal is to provide housing for 10,000 people, according to the Huffington Post.
All of this is possible due to the efforts of the Skid Row Housing Trust, which helps find affordable homes for those with disabilities, poor health, mental illness and addiction and the low-income. In order to finance Star Apartments, the Trust received low-income housing tax credit equity from Bank of America and the National Equity Fund.
Any occupant of the Star Apartment complex who earns a salary must allocate 30 percent of it to their rent.
While it may seem that providing housing and amenities for the homeless would be costly to taxpayers and the city, it’s actually saving money. According to the 2014 study by the Central Florida Commission of Homeless, right now it costs about $31,000 a year to provide for one homeless person (due to the high cost of paying for medical and psychiatric hospitalization, jail time and emergency rooms), whereas operating the Star Apartments will only cost about $10,000 per resident for a year.