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ETC. Photo of the day by Daniel DreifussHomekey resident Maria Morales is knitting an afghan that she plans to donate to raise money for a cancer charity.  Submit your best horizontal photos. (Please include the location where the photo was taken in the caption.)

Salinas’ Project Homekey success story provides a blueprint for other cities and counties seeking housing solutions.

Good morning. 

Pam Marino here, thinking about how, sometimes, the problems facing our state, nation and world can feel unsolvable. Today, however, I’m here to share a very big and so-far successful solution that came out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s the solution I wrote about in the cover story for this week’s print edition of the Weekly. The story is all about Homekey, a state program that came together last summer when state housing officials realized they had to find a way to make a big dent in getting people who are homeless into permanent homes.

Salinas officials jumped on the opportunity and within a few months the Good Nite Inn on Work Street was transformed from an underperforming hotel into permanent housing for over 50 people. Today that number is up to 64 and as the hotel is further renovated it will one day house over 100 people.

When fully occupied, it will cut Salinas’ homeless population number by approximately five percent, says Roxanne Wilson, executive officer of the Coalition of Homeless Service Providers. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s actually a big deal. Especially to the formerly unhoused people who now have a safe place to live.

I wrote the story as part of a competitive grant award the Weekly received from the Solutions Journalism Network earlier this year for our proposal, "A blueprint of potential solutions to Monterey County’s housing crisis.” The proposal included a story on the homeless shelter situation in Monterey County I wrote in July and the Homekey cover story, as well as an upcoming cover I’m working on right now on farmworker housing.

There are four pillars to solutions journalism: The story must focus on the response instead of the problem; it must include qualitative and quantitative evidence; it should include limitations of the response; and it should provide insights that others can apply elsewhere.

The Homekey success story is a blueprint for other cities and counties to follow when seeking affordable solutions to finding permanent homes for those previously without homes. And the exciting news is that a new round of $1.45 billion in funding for Homekey was just announced by the state. 

Salinas is currently working on an application, and it's possible that King City will apply as well. Wilson believes that innovative programs like Homekey will ultimately help Monterey County reduce its homeless population by 50 percent.

It’s been an extremely helpful learning process working with the Solutions Journalism Network this year, and a gratifying one. In a world where we get so much bad news that focuses on problems, it’s nice to focus on the solutions. 

-Pam Marino, staff writer, pam@mcweekly.com

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BY THE NUMBERS

The approximate per-unit cost for the purchase and build out of Salinas’ 101 unit Homekey project at the former Good Nite Inn. Typically, construction costs for affordable housing run between $500,000 and $750,000 per unit.

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An unprecedented state program is already fulfilling its promise to house the most vulnerable.
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