A local nonprofit providing transitional and permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans and their families broke ground on phase two of a new housing development on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Esperanza En Escalante owns more than 16 acres east of South Wilmot Road at 3710 S. Calle Polar, and have already built 44 one-bedroom units. The organization just begun the process of adding 50 additional units that will include one, two and three-bedroom units.
Esperanza En Escalante teamed up with Gorman & Company, which builds affordable housing across the United States, for phase one of the housing development, targeted at older homeless veterans. Now, a few years later and back with Gorman & Company, Esperanza is aiming to help homeless veterans with families in phase two of the project.
“We have a few family units at our transitional housing and they’re almost always full,” said Pat Beauchamp, Esperanza En Escalante Director of Operations. “On any given night [in Pima County], there’s probably 200 veterans, some of which are veterans with families, who are homeless.”
People can stay in transitional housing for up to two years, which is why adding more permanent supportive housing as well as additional transitional housing is critical for keeping veterans, especially those with families, off the streets.
Veterans who live in Esperanza En Escalante housing are assisted with any legal, medical or substance abuse issues they may have, as well as their employment search. In addition to housing and social services, programs and transportation are also provided “to assist veterans’ transition into everyday life.”
Gorman & Company helped Esperanza En Escalante earn a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit reservation from the Arizona Department of Housing for phase one of the development. Last year they received another tax credit reservation which paved the way for a second phase.
Gorman & Company is able to “get federal funding or state funding for these projects and then they work with local organizations and come together through a cause or a problem,” said Mikaela Copley, an account executive representing the company. The project with Esperanza En Escalante is one of multiple that Gorman & Company has supported in Arizona, including work in Tucson and Phoenix.
A major benefit for homeless veterans seeking a spot in the new housing development is that 46 of the 50 new units are covered by Section 8 vouchers. These vouchers subsidize rent for low-income people so they generally do not have to pay out more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Of the first 44 units built, 40 are covered by vouchers.
As a result of a tightening market for affordable housing in Tucson, “landlords are beginning to not take Section 8 vouchers because they can go on the open market and get higher rents,” Beauchamp said. For some, this subsidy is the difference between having a roof over their heads or not.
In 2018, Continuums of Care reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that 8 percent of people experiencing homelessness in Arizona were family households, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. It was also reported that 9.1 percent of the homeless in Arizona are veterans.
Since these two categories are not mutually exclusive, there is certainly a demand for the type of work Esperanza En Escalante is committed to doing in 2019 and beyond to improve upon those 2018 statistics.
“It’s really about us celebrating the fact that we’ve got the chance to go forward and build 50 houses for homeless veterans,” Beauchamp said.
Jack Ramsey is a University of Arizona journalism student and Inside Tucson Business intern.