Apartments will help young adults transition to self-sufficiency

10/02/2013 7:30 PM

10/02/2013 9:44 PM

The Valley’s first apartment complex for homeless young adults and former foster children opened Wednesday in Modesto with high praise from civic leaders and sponsors, although tenants won’t start moving in for a few more days.

Built with federal housing money funneled through City Hall, the $5.7 million Meadow Glen Apartments complex on East Coolidge Avenue is the only housing project from Sacramento to Bakersfield with on-site services devoted to helping some of society’s most vulnerable young adults.

“It’s a struggle when you have no support from parents,” said Veronica Morales, 28, who was shuttled among foster homes in San Jose starting at age 4. “You’re supposed to look to your parents for nurturing, to love and care for you, and it’s hard when you feel like you have absolutely nobody.”

The project was expensive for taxpayers, compared with sales of other houses in that area of east Modesto.

Mayor Garrad Marsh said the project relied on a $700,000 federal housing grant, plus $5 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program money.

That would bring the per-unit cost to $178,125. The median price for regular houses in the 95350 ZIP code, where Meadow Glen is located, was $165,000 in August, according to DataQuick.

The median price per square foot for new and used houses sold in that ZIP code in August was $124, compared with $218 for Meadow Glen apartments.

City leaders in May 2012 said the project would cost $6.674 million. Using that figure, the per-unit cost rises to $208,563, and the per-square-foot cost would be $256.

Having crunched numbers after Wednesday morning’s grand-opening ceremony, The Bee was unable to reach city leaders for comment.

Officials previously have said most of the money amounts to loans the Housing Authority of the County of Stanislaus won’t have to repay.

Morales, who now works for Aspiranet, a nonprofit organization that will help place young adults at Meadow Glen, said she became homeless on her 18th birthday, when she no longer was eligible for foster services. State law later changed to allow young people a choice of staying with foster families until they’re 21.

Studies suggest people become independent at about 31 these days, even with family support, said Steve Ashman, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. Meadow Glen will house tenants up to 28 years old and will bring transitioning services to them, such as help with education, searching for jobs and balancing a checkbook.

“It’s not their fault” they’re homeless, said Morales, whose foster family had moved to San Joaquin County when she was shown the door. “They have no hope when they have no roof over their head.”

Most are suffering consequences of actions taken by adults, Ashman said.

The nearly 2-acre, 32-unit complex features 24 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom units, some of which are wheelchair-friendly. All were given mattresses by Sleep Train Mattress Centers, and used chairs and tables were donated by California State University, Stanislaus.

Several other kindhearted merchants and agencies pitched in. Employees of Farmers & Merchants Bank came up with donations for microwaves and vacuum cleaners, and the bank sent a $1,000 check for operating expenses.

“We have never done a project like this, ever,” said Bill Fagan, the housing authority’s executive director. “The community really wrapped itself around us.”

Jan Viss of the county’s Community Services Agency said the office serves 55 former foster children who are older than 18 but not yet 21, all of whom would be eligible tenants until they’re 29. Other agencies and nonprofits such as Aspiranet will refer potential tenants.

Eighty to 100 children each year become too old to stay in foster care in Stanislaus County, officials have said; statewide, it’s about 5,000.

At Wednesday’s ceremony, Marsh said the project would rub off on its neighborhood, in a good way.

“Coolidge has not been in the finest shape over the years,” the mayor said. “We think this will be a catalyst to make this a nicer part of town again.”

The Housing Agency can be reached at (209) 557-2000.

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