Converted Hotel Provides Efficiency Apartments to Chronically Homeless at Risk of COVID-19
FORT WORTH, Texas, December 21, 2020 – Fort Worth Housing Solutions, development partner Ojala Partners, LP of Dallas, the City of Fort Worth and a coalition of agencies that care for the homeless are celebrating the opening of Casa de Esperanza, the city’s largest permanent supportive housing effort to date.
The fast-tracked project is the result of collaboration between the public housing authority, social service agencies and the city, which provided FWHS $9.3 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding in September to convert an extended-stay hotel into a 119-unit assisted housing community. Residents have access to “wrap-around” services, including mental health support, healthcare, nutrition and job training. A majority of units will be leased by Dec. 30.
“It’s just fantastic,” said Greg Gibson, 59, who had been camping outdoors in various Fort Worth locations for the past eight years before he signed his lease Dec. 3. “Being able to come in and lock the door definitely puts my mind at ease… It looks like this is going to be really good for the homeless community to have something like this. I’ve never heard of it happening before, especially not this quickly.”
Casa’s single-occupancy units are available to residents who have been homeless for 12 consecutive months or more, are disabled, and either 65 years or older or who have health conditions making them vulnerable to COVID-19. Prospective residents are referred from a coordinated list managed by Tarrant County Homeless Coalition. Units include full-size beds, TVs, wi-fi service, baths and kitchenettes stocked with microwaves, cookware and a refrigerator.
“Our city, and members of the Fort Worth City Council, have been focused on increasing access to permanent supportive housing for our homeless neighbors and other vulnerable people for the past several years,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “It’s wonderful to see this most recent investment so rapidly provide homes to those in need, especially during 2020 and this holiday season.”
FWHS President Mary-Margaret Lemons said: “Our agency is proud to play a small part in this effort. It really took a village to get the project done on time and would not have happened without the City of Fort Worth, Ojala, Presbyterian Night Shelter, MHMR, JPS Health Network, DRC Solutions, Union Gospel Mission, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition and many others.
“We are thankful for city’s investment of CARES Act dollars in permanent supportive housing that will serve the community for years to come, and we are grateful to each of our partners for supporting this monumental effort.”
The City awarded FWHS funding for the development in late September. The agency closed on the property, near Northeast Loop 820 and North Beach Street, Oct. 1. That left roughly eight weeks for Ojala Holdings to remodel units and gut and upgrade offices and common meeting areas.
“This property conversion required effective teamwork across all organizations – from the City of Fort Worth to Fort Worth Housing Solutions and the agencies that serve the homeless – to deliver quality homes to our residents on deadline,” said Matthew Vruggink, Ojala principal. “It has been incredibly rewarding to rehabilitate this property and know that we have played a role in helping people get their lives back on track.”
City officials have estimated that there are about 1,800 homeless persons in Fort Worth and that as many as a third are chronically homeless. Casa de Esperanza’s 119 units make it Fort Worth’s largest permanent supportive housing community to date, said Tara Perez, manager of the city’s Directions Home program.
Other smaller properties that provide similar services are the Palm Tree Apartments off Race Street; Samaritan House in the Near Southside; and the future New Leaf community to open in Spring 2021 off River Oaks Boulevard.
Gibson, 59, said he struggled with a lack of nutrition and mental health issues and did not think he would make it through another winter – until he heard that he had been approved to move to Casa de Esperanza.
“As I got older, it was just so much more difficult to bear the heat and the cold weather and the outdoor environment,” he said. “But this seems to take care of most of the issues I was having… It’s definitely going to add years to my life and improve my mental health, physical health.”
About Fort Worth Housing Solutions
Fort Worth Housing Solutions is changing the face of affordable housing by providing mixed-income rental and home ownership opportunities that provide the foundation to improve lives. Established by the City of Fort Worth in 1938, FWHS now operates 40 properties with almost 7,000 units and manages about 7,000 vouchers that help families and individuals cover rental costs. FWHS works closely with numerous partners to promote economic independence and positive change in the lives of more than 28,000 individuals each day. Learn more at www.fwhs.org.
About Ojala Partners, LP
Ojala is a privately-owned, Texas-based, Texas-focused real estate development firm dedicated to acquiring, developing and redeveloping mission-driven, multifamily residential and very select commercial assets, using best-in-class practices in markets or sectors that typically draw lesser competition. We define mission-driven housing as safe, sustainable housing that integrates itself seamlessly within a community and is affordable to a diverse mix of individuals and families. Currently, Ojala’s portfolio consists of nearly 4,000 homes, of which nearly 2,100 are affordable at various income levels. Visit www.ojalaholdings.com for more information.
Kristin Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 817-706-9811