Neglected since Fort Ord closed, Lexington Court is dominated by hollow, brown and tan apartments. Squatters have set up camp in many of the buildings. Some of the units smell of urine.
Parked outside one of the units, Howard Dunagan says vandals broke into the apartment and stole a water heater. Water leaked inside the apartment for about five years. The floor is now caked in dark green mold.
“We are going to gut the inside and redo it,” says Dunagan, project manager for Shelter Outreach Plus. “The rest of the units are not in bad shape. Just a little TLC and people can move in.”
By reviving these mangy apartments, Shelter Outreach Plus will more than double its transitional housing for homeless men. The nonprofit plans to move its Men in Transition program from Salinas’ Chinatown to Fort Ord. This will expand its capacity from 14 units above Dorothy’s Place to 36 beds on Lexington Court in Marina.
Ronald Rygg, executive director of Shelter Outreach, says men who stay on Soledad Street have a hard time staying clean because of all the drug dealing that occurs outside their window. “There is just a lot of temptation down there,” Rygg says. “It’s difficult for people to recover when they are just making the transition back to a sober life.”
In May, the state’s Emergency Housing Assistance Program awarded the social service provider nearly $868,000 to develop the project. Shelter Outreach employees hope homeless men will be able to move into their new apartments by Christmas.
Shelter Outreach’s administrative offices for I-HELP are already located on Lexington Court. Rygg says moving the transitional housing program nearby will help homeless men—many of whom move from church shelter to church shelter, seeking a night’s rest—find more stable shelter and access to numerous social services for 18 to 24 months. “Because it is located very close to our I-HELP office we will be able to close the geographic gap from our homeless men who are on the streets and get them into transitional housing,” he says.
A large share of the county’s homeless services is located on the former Army base. Shelter Outreach Plus has a 31-unit transitional program near Lexington Court for women who are victims of domestic violence. Interim Inc. has two programs—Shelter Cover and Sandy Shores—for homeless people with mental illness.
The additional housing for the homeless will be a boon to the county, too. According to the Monterey County Homeless Census and Survey, more than 3,700 people live on the streets. Seventy one percent of those counted in the survey were men.