No Home Again

Amy Otten walks through her old neighborhood, Pueblo del Mar in Marina. She says the sober living community helped her be successful in recovery and rebuild her life.

Six unhoused families promised homes are facing continued homelessness, and 16 previously unhoused families living at the 55-unit Pueblo del Mar sober living community in Marina – the only one of its kind in California – are in danger of returning to the streets, after the Housing Authority of the County of Monterey lost funding for rental support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HACM owns the property, and for 25 years, the nonprofit Sun Street Centers has provided support services. Now, all that may be coming to an end.

On May 9, HACM officials informed Sun Street’s CEO, Anna Foglia, that all referrals to the community for future tenants were suspended and that HUD rental support for current tenants will end June 30. Tenants pay one-third of their income and HUD pays the rest; the average tenant pays in the range of $300 to $400 a month. Just weeks earlier, Sun Street had approved the six families to move into vacant townhomes. Those approvals were put on hold and Sun Street had to stop processing applications for other families on a waiting list.

The families who are currently living there – all headed by a parent who recently completed substance use disorder treatment and was subsequently reunited with their children – are left wondering if they will have a place to live on July 1. One – a single mother with two children – just moved there in March. “I was homeless and struggling completely before moving in here and I was so excited and grateful to finally have a safe place to reunify with two of my kids,” she wrote in a letter that Foglia is forwarding to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.

Foglia says HACM was informed by HUD last fall that, because occupancy at Pueblo had fallen below a certain level, the development of townhomes was losing its eligibility for federal rental support. Foglia believes HACM had not been filling units because many were in need of rehabilitation – they were previously used as military housing on the former Fort Ord, which closed in 1994.

The Monterey County Behavioral Health Department recently applied for a state grant to rehabilitate the units; an answer is expected later this summer. In the meantime, a collaboration of county agencies and nonprofit organizations has been searching for alternative funding sources, says Monterey County Supervisor Wendy Root Askew, who represents the Fourth District where Pueblo is located.

“There are some significant challenges facing this property, but I am confident that our partners are committed to finding solutions that meet the affordable housing needs of the families,” she says.

HACM Executive Director Zulieka Boykin did not respond to questions by the Weekly’s deadline. In a written report to the HACM Board of Directors on April 24, Boykin described meetings with local agencies searching for a solution as productive. She painted an optimistic picture of possible bridge funding to keep it open.

Something changed between April 24 and May 9, and that has Foglia worried. She is perplexed over why unhoused families are being left without a place to live and 16 families with homes may become homeless again. “It’s traumatizing and it’s cruel,” she says. “I’m hopeful we can work on long-term solutions as a team.”

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