By Kelly Keagy, Communications Manager, The Living Room, July 28, 2020.
Who could ever have predicted that we would all be living through times like these? I know I am not alone in having to give myself a pep talk (on a regular basis) so that the daily news cycle does not overwhelm me. All of us here at The Living Room have been coping with the current pandemic by getting busy. Our focus and mission is to not only provide comfort and help this vulnerable community with day-to-day survival needs, but also to be a positive force for enacting change in their lives. If you are ready for it, if you are willing to do the work, we want to help you find a way to remove the roadblocks.
One of the ways we accomplish that is through our housing program. In addition to the work being done at The Living Room Center (meals, mobile showers, essential items and outreach), we also own and operate three transitional houses, a junior dwelling unit and a tiny home. The idea is to transition our participants from homelessness to a room (or home) as a first step in regaining their independence. The ultimate goal is to provide stability and safety in order for them to take a breath and work towards permanent housing that they can afford and maintain.
Currently, we house 12 women and 4 children with plans to accommodate another three women and one small family in the near future.
Our newest unit is an ADU / garage conversion added to an existing home that we own and operate. This unit was built specifically to house a mother and young child. Although it shares the laundry space and backyard with the house residents, it is modern, comfortable and private. Through the tireless efforts of Board Member Liz Uribe and Board Alumni Marion Weinreb we were able to complete this project in record time and for a very reasonable cost. Funding for this project came from a Tamalpais Pacific Foundation grant and private donors.
Even though the process can be slow, due to affordable housing availability and individual circumstances, we have seen some amazing progress. During the two years that we have been running our housing program we have had several women move on to homes of their own. We have seen the program work and are incredibly proud of all the women working it. It is an amazing thing to see someone come from a place of anguish and trauma to stability and self-reliance. Not only have we seen people gain independence and the self-confidence that comes with it, but we have several participants who come back as mentors and volunteers. It is a beautiful thing to behold.
The beauty that we get to see on a daily basis here at The Living Room is the magic of human resilience. When given the right kind of support, people can get their feet back underneath themselves, gain momentum and take control of their lives. Ametamorphosis of sorts. All they really ever needed was a hand up.
(Note from the Editor – more information about the ADU)
The house where this new ADU is added to was purchased in April 2019 after a group of investors lent The Living Room the cash to buy the house. Investors have an interest-only note until TLR can finale the house on their own. The house is occupied by previously unsheltered women who are clients of The Living Room.
The two-car garage was about 450 sq ft, and is perfect size for a studio apartment, at 385 sq ft after conversion. It was designed to share the washer/dryer with the women in the other part of the house.
TLR received a grant from Tamalpais Pacific Foundation for the majority of the work. The balance of the cost was through donations from individual donors. The tile was donated by Northcoast tile. the engineering of the drawings was donated. There were several other in-kind donations.
Designer don Watanabe and builder Don DeLave (DeLave Construction) worked on the plans to maximize space and minimize costs for the unit at discounted rates.
TLR applied for permit with the City of Santa Rosa in late December 2019 at a cost of about $2,600. Work started on the unit after permit was granted in February 2020. The project took about 5 months to complete because of work-stoppage during the pandemic, otherwise, it would have completed at least one month earlier. The total cost of the project is about $80,000.
TLR expects to refinance the house using the equity of the new ADU through a conventional loan and pay off the investors within the next year.
The studio apartment is now occupied by a formerly unsheltered woman and her young child since July 2020
Interior photos by Grace Cheung-Schulman.
Video by Lacy Atkins can be seen here.