Supportive Housing: Meeting People Where They Are

Hannah TaylorJanuary 11, 20200 Comments

It’s a Spring day in San Diego when Zephyr opens its doors to 84 formerly homeless veterans who will call this apartment building home.

For the residents – some of whom have lived on the street for years – the transition to being housed is often both powerful and overwhelming. “Many of our residents have overcome trauma and experienced mental health challenges and substance issues,” said Heather Pollock-Averick, the Director of Supportive Housing at Affirmed Housing, the project developer. “Moving into a private room and learning how to navigate new systems can be a huge hurdle to overcome.”

The Supportive Solution

Supportive housing is a “housing first” solution that removes barriers to getting vulnerable people into a permanent residence and provides people with coordinated services, often from where they live. Such offerings may include relationship support between landlords and residents, employment coaching, health referrals, services to address physical, mental health and substance use issues, and social activities. Most importantly, it’s a proven solution for helping people get and stay housed and a benefit to society as a whole.

A 2017 study by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit bipartisan research group, studied nearly 900 individuals from the year before they accessed supportive housing through one full year in housing. The results showed that people in supportive housing were more likely to remain housed, made nearly 70% fewer emergency room visits and cost $6.5 million less in taxpayer dollars in the second year alone.

Zephyr is one of nearly 90 permanent supportive housing projects funded by LIIF across the country. In fact, since 1996 LIIF has invested $200 million to create 8,400 supportive housing units.

For Zephyr, LIIF provided a $500,000 predevelopment loan to Affirmed Housing and an additional $5.19 million (as part of a larger $9.405 million Golden State Acquisition Fund loan) to purchase an old Motel 6 for redevelopment.

“There was a large upfront investment that we had to make and LIIF was there for us,” said Jim Silverwood, the President & CEO of Affirmed Housing. “By doing an adaptive re-use of a motel, we were able to deliver the project within thirteen months from city approval, when new construction could take several years.”

Brian Hill in his room at Zephyr

Bringing the project to life quickly was important to respond to San Diego’s current housing crisis. Per the 2016 homeless count, there were approximately 9,000 homeless individuals in San Diego County, of which approximately 5,000 were unsheltered. Of the County’s homeless population, 13%, or 1,157 individuals were veterans. Considering that veterans constitute 7% of the County’s population, it could be said that veterans are twice as likely as other populations to become homeless.

The City of San Diego has made strides in recent years to address homelessness challenges, setting aside $30 million for the development of supportive housing and committing 1,500 Section 8 vouchers to house the homeless. LIIF recently funded two other Affirmed Housing projects in San Diego, which will create an additional 105 supportive housing units for veterans.

An Investment in Equity

Supportive housing often serves vulnerable individuals living at the intersection of marginalization and hardship. Veterans, the disabled, people of color, seniors, the LGBTQ community and immigrants and refugees are disproportionately likely to be unhoused and dealing with chronic health issues and barriers to employment.

Investing in and advocating for supportive housing is aligned with LIIF’s work to advance social justice and equity. We believe that to achieve equitable life outcomes, we must transform the systems that allocate key resources like housing and health access to meet the needs of those who have been systemically left out of systems of building wealth and health.

LIIF works to partner with mission-aligned developers like Affirmed Housing, and community-serving nonprofits to ensure that our investments are meeting vulnerable communities where they are and building bridges to opportunities.

At Zephyr, this investment means that a formerly rundown motel is now a renovated home to 84 former service men and women. Each apartment has its own kitchenette and new walls and flooring. The building also has solar panels, a community garden and group gathering space for residents to connect.

“I cannot believe every day I wake up and have my own place,” said Brian Hill, a resident of Zephyr. “Serving in the Navy got me this place, and I’m so happy here.”


Financing Partners: California Department of Housing and Community Development, Calvert Impact Capital, Golden State Acquisition Fund, San Diego Housing Commission, Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Program

LIIF Financing: $500,000 predevelopment loan and $5.19 million loan through the Golden State Acquisition Fund


Read more stories of community development in LIIF’s 2019 Impact Report >