(Jim Gergen works on the site of a recently purchased Tustin fourplex, which the mission is remodeling to become housing for veterans. P/C: NICK AGRO, OC REGISTER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Read this full article by By BROOKE EDWARDS STAGGS / STAFF WRITER online here.
The Rescue Mission on Aug. 10 started converting two fourplexes along Newport Avenue at Sycamore Avenue into a complex that will house up to 32 formerly homeless veterans plus a property manager. It will be the largest privately funded organization in Orange County to serve this rising population, said CEO Jim Palmer, who felt called to help veterans after his son enlisted in the Air Force two years ago.
Through their outreach program, the mission has helped 255 veterans living on the streets of Orange County. The vast majority are men, Palmer said. And roughly two-thirds are younger veterans who’ve served post-Sept. 11.
They’ve gotten 19 veterans to come live at Village of Hope. Stea and eight others are still there now, working through the program for as long as it takes until they’re ready to transition to independent life.
The mission has found it can be unsettling for veterans to live at Village of Hope, though, where there are families and 85 kids running around, Palmer said. At the new space, they’ll generally be housed two to a bedroom in a set-up not far removed from the barracks they all know.
The buildings each include a one-bedroom, a two-bedroom and two three-bedroom apartments that form a horseshoe. The units face each other, with a small courtyard between them.
“The veterans being together, they have this camaraderie and are able to hold each other accountable,” Stea said. “I think it’ll be great.”
Veterans can live in the complex free so long as they’re working through the Rescue Mission’s program – which, Palmer notes, is a full-time job. Residents will sleep there, then take shuttles or ride their bikes to the Village of Hope each day to continue group therapy, on-campus jobs, work training and more.
The Rescue Mission bought the Newport Avenue properties in December from the city of Tustin for $533,000.
The city’s former redevelopment agency purchased the units in 2000 as staff secured right-of-way for a planned expansion to Newport Avenue. With that project on hold, the RDA sold the homes in 2010 to the city, which has used them to offer affordable housing.
The city gave the families living in the fourplexes six months to move, with the mission covering their last month of rent. Though one resident waited out those six months, Palmer said no one complained, instead expressing gratitude for the free month of rent and support for the project.
The buildings had seen better days, with some rotting wood, aging interiors and cracked concrete in the courtyard from an overgrown tree. But that’s all changing.
The Rescue Mission is known for creating attractive spaces, with artwork and custom landscaping on display at Village of Hope and Laurel House for runaway teen girls.
“We don’t want people to feel ashamed,” said Jason Bird, a contractor who’s worked with the organization for four years. “We want people to take pride in being here.”
Contact the writer: 714-796-7963 or BStaggs@OCRegister.com
How to help
Orange County Rescue Mission received a private $260,000 donation last year to convert two Tustin fourplexes into housing for veterans. The organization also received a $162,000 matching grant, with contributions doubled up to that amount.
The mission expects it will cost around $850,000 to overhaul, furnish and ready the properties for tenants. However, they hope to offset most of that total through in-kind donations.
Satellite Management Co. volunteered to supervise the project for free. Rimshot Demolition Inc. is donating labor for trash removal and clean-up, while CR&R Inc. is donating dumpsters and trash hauling services.
Here are ways to help:
Donate funds – Online at rescuemission.org, by phone at 714-247-4300 or by mail to 1 Hope Drive, Tustin, CA 92782
Donate supplies and/or labor
• Landscape design, material and installation
• Barbecue and patio furniture
• Electrical work
• Stucco repair
• Windows and doors
• Interior and exterior painting
• Rain gutters
• Wood and stair repair
• Termite tenting
• Asphalt parking lot
• Concrete walkways
• Security lighting and video system
• Fencing and gates
(P/C: NICK AGRO, OC REGISTER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)