Officials are breaking ground on transforming not just a former motel on Industrial Park Avenue in Redlands, but along with it the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents and the community itself.
With a $30 million grant from the state, the former Good Nite Inn will be turned into 99 units of supportive housing for homeless community members or those at risk of homelessness.
Andy Meyers with Shangri-La Industries, which is refurbishing the site, said at a ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 4, that construction should start in the next 10 days, and residents could be housed by the end of the year.
“For this community, this project is not just about getting people off the street, but getting them the services needed so that they can assimilate back into society, be the very best that they can be as an individual, and hopefully help to make the overall community better,” he told the audience Thursday.
The 2022 point-in-time homeless count found 184 homeless residents in Redlands, a number which could be significantly altered by this project.
The city is partnering with Step Up on Second Street to run the facility.
Fernando Torres-Gil, board chairperson for Step Up, said projects like this are an example of what he hopes will be done throughout the state and the country.
Some people think there are no solutions for the housing and homelessness crises, he said, but housing such as what’s planned in Redlands helps residents “begin to develop a new life and the dignity and the independence that all of us deserve.”
Step Up and Shangri-La worked together on a similar conversion of the 76-unit All Star Lodge in San Bernardino.
Redlands’ contribution to the Industrial Park Avenue project is $3.6 million for operating costs, to be spread over seven years, according to a written report for the July 19 City Council meeting. The city is seeking grant money to cover the costs.
After Thursday’s ceremony, Meyers said construction will include façade renovation, site fencing, new flooring, the addition of kitchenettes in every unit, plumbing, grading for handicap accessibility, new air conditioning units, and turning a pool into an open greenspace and/or dog park for residents’ pets.
Redlands homeless advocates Rick Ferguson and Ed Torres, who attended the event Thursday but are not a part of the project, both called the conversion a good first step, but wished it could move along faster.
Ferguson said the length of time it takes to get a project like this going is frustrating to the homeless residents he has been helping.
When the council gave its initial approval of the project in October 2021, it was hoped people could be moving in by now.
“You say ‘you’re going to be in a place by now,’ and they’re still not, so that affects their mental wellness,” Ferguson said. “A couple of them are really struggling with that.”
Torres is president of the board of directors with Center for Spiritual Living, which has run a shelter for homeless women on and off for a few years.
Unhoused people he has helped consider themselves Redlands residents, Torres said. They spend their money in the city, they pay taxes, they vote.
A project like this has another big advantage, he added. It can help change public perception about the people it helps.
“It’s a big win to start seeing them in a different way,” Torres said, “as residents.”