About a dozen social service agencies offered help Tuesday to the poor families being forced out of their homes after Modesto declared their downtown apartment building unsafe and unfit to live in.
But the agencies’ assistance and good intentions face a stubborn obstacle — the lack of affordable housing in Stanislaus County. That is part of the larger housing crisis clobbering California.
The agencies simply cannot help all of the building’s approximately 80 tenants find permanent housing, said Jeanette Fabela, the housing & supportive services manager in the county CEO’s office. “We would not be able to serve all of the tenants,” she said. “We have the funding, but we don’t have the units.”
Modesto Family Promise Executive Director Tamra Losinski said unfortunately that is a common story for her agency and the others that help people with housing. She said it has become more difficult to find housing for clients as the local housing market has heated up and rents have risen. She said even middle class families have started calling Family Promise for help.
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Still, Fabela said an event like this is good because it makes the community aware of the problem. She said Focus on Prevention — the initiative the county launched more than two years ago to deal with homelessness — is working on plan to increase the supply of affordable housing.
Tenants were grateful for the event, which was held next to the apartment building and included county agencies, the Modesto Gospel Mission, Family Promise, Community Housing and Shelter Services, Community Impact Central Valley, Catholic Charities, the United Way and the Housing Authority. Modesto asked the county and other agencies to help tenants.
“I think it was a good effort,” said Bruce Curtis, who is 65, disabled and has lived in the building for about three years. “People here need to have some hope. The tenants need to see that there is some possibility of hope. It shows that someone cares.”
Curtis said one of the agencies may be able to help him get into Ralston Tower, a senior complex in downtown Modesto.
Tenants on Tuesday could get referrals and assistance with other issues in addition to help with permanent housing. The agencies will be back at the apartment building at 624 Ninth St. from 2 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday to help tenants.
The building consists of 27 studio apartments that rent for $575 or $585 a month, including utilities. About a dozen children live there. The building has challenges. Bathroom floors are collapsing because of water damage from faulty plumbing in some apartments. Others reek of mold. Tenants say rats enter through holes in the walls and floors. And police officers are frequent visitors, responding to arguments, fights, assaults and requests for security checks.
The building is owned by Steve and Noma Arakelian of Turlock.
Steve Arakelian has blamed the problems on those tenants he claims vandalize and damage the property faster than he can repair it. He said some of his tenants have been homeless and struggle with or have struggled with mental illness and substance abuse. But several tenants say Arakelian does not make repairs or adequate repairs.
Modesto will ask its Board of Building Appeals on Thursday to impose civil penalties of $1,000 a day against the Arakelians for not complying with the city’s plan to fix the building. Chief Building Official Tom Trimberger said penalties started May 28. He said Monday the penalties are approaching $60,000 and can top out at $100,000 per year.
Steve Arakelian declined to say Monday whether he would be at Thursday’s hearing. “I’m tired of being roasted alive,” he said. “I don’t have any comments.”
He has said he does not have the money to repair the building and is evicting his tenants. Notices were given to tenants more than a week ago. Tenants who have been there less than a year have 30 days to leave. Those who have been there for more than a year have 60 days. Arakelian has said he has put the building up for sale.
The BBA meeting starts at 4 p.m. at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St. The meeting is on the third floor in the Community and Economic Development Department in room 3772. Attendees will need to check in with a receptionist.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316