H-LOMPOC

Nov 18, 2010 9:55 PM by Ariel Wesler

Low-cost housing units raise concerns for neighbors

Construction has begun on a controversial housing project in Santa Maria. The Rancho Hermosa Project will be located on the 100 block of East Inger Drive. It will provide 47 apartments for homeless, mentally ill and low- income tenants. Some people have expressed concerns about having the development in their neighborhood.

George Garrett of Lompoc has called a lot of places home.

"I was sleeping in garages, laundry rooms, parks," Garrett said.

But he's never truly had a home to call his own until now.

"My favorite thing about this apartment is that it's mine," Garrett said.

The apartment is part of a low-cost housing project in Lompoc called Homebase on G. It opened in 2009. The people living there include low-income tenants, homeless, and those coping with mental illness. They all have access to onsite supportive services.

"There are a lot of people to talk to, resources, groups, it helps to interact," said Sonia Mendoza, who lives and works at the development.

Whether at the gym or the rec-room, some experts say getting these tenants integrated into the community is key to helping them get back on their feet.

"Just because I may be a little handicapped, don't push me to the side. I'm still human," Garrett said. "It's not like we're looking for a handout. We're looking for a hand up."

But neighbors like Oksana Koval see things a bit differently.

"We pretty much purchased this maybe a month before we new this property was going to be built here," Koval said.

She says people have come to the door at night asking for money and other items.

"How would you feel if you just took a shower. You're going to go bed and someone's knocking at your door? It's not a very good feeling, Koval said.

Still, having a roof over their head has these tenants feeling good.

Housing managers say the nine million dollar complex also has a gated entrance and security cameras. They say staff is on site 24 hours a day to assist tenants and ensure they are following the rules.

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